16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the Senate that I have received the following message from Hia Excellency the Governor-General: -
I desire to acquaint you that the AddressinReply at the opening of the Sixteenth Parliament was duly laid before Hia Majesty the King, and I am commanded to convey to you and to honorable senators His Majesty’s sincere appreciation of the loyal assurances to which your address gives expression.
Governor-General . 28th March, 1041.
– On the 21st November, 1940, I asked the Minister for the Interior if justice would be done to waterside workers whose permits had been revoked under the National Security Regulations. The Minister then promised that the Government would deal with the matter, and that some new arrangement would be adopted whereby a worker who had been deprived of his permit would be told why it had been taken away, and would be given an opportunity to answer any charge laid against him. I received a letter a few days ago from the Queensland branch of the Waterside Workers Federation in which it was stated that nothing had yet been done in the matter. Oan the Minister say whether steps have been taken to assist the men whose permits have been revoked, so that they will have an opportunity to answer the charges laid against them and to obtain justice?
– When the honorable senator previously spoke on this matter, I pointed out that steps were being taken to have it dealt with in a different manner from that in which it was being treated at that time, and arrangements were made to alter the prevailing system. Action must have been taken in the meantime, because a number of waterside workers whose permits had been taken away at that time have had them restored. I saw members of the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane last week. One case was causing a good deal of concern, and I asked the Minister for the Army to expedite it, in view of the fact that the permit had been held up for a considerable period. I shall again bring this matter under the notice of the Minister for the Army and the AttorneyGeneral, with a view to having it dealt with expeditiously.
– Has the Government made any arrangement, similar to that entered into during the last war, for the vocational training of men who have returned to Australia, and have been discharged because of a disability received upon active service ? I refer particularly to those men who have lost a limb, and so are unable to resume their former civil occupations. -Senator COLLETT. - The honorable senator gave me notice of his intention to ask this question, and I have prepared a reply which I trust will be informative and satisfactory. With regard to members of the fighting forces who return from service abroad, the Government, through the Repatriation Commission, has arranged that, when fit men are discharged, steps shall be taken to place them in suitable employment at the earliest possible moment. I might add, that, whilst awaiting employment, the ex-service man is provided with sustenance at a. rate that will obviate any immediate anxiety as to the welfare of himself and his family, if any.
Men who were under twenty years of agc at the date of enlistment, or men who return from service with some disability which unfits them for a resumption of their former civil occupations, will be eligible to receive vocational training in selected trades, businesses, or other means of gaining a livelihood. Suitable allowances will be provided to cover the period of training. In this connexion I should point out that the technical training institutions are at present fully extended in teaching to meet the requirements of munitions production staffs, and also to meet the demands for technicians made by the three services. To meet the difficulty of making adequate provision for those with whom I am at the moment dealing, a committee, composed of representatives of the Repatriation Commission, the Department of Labour and National Service, and the three services - the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force - has been appointed, and will, it is hoped, be able to present for the Government’s consideration a satisfactory plan, so that all in need may receive adequate aid.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) pro>posed -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended, up to and including Thursday, the 10th April next, to enable new business to be taken after 10.30 p.m.
– There being no dissenting voice, and there being more than an absolute majority of honorable senators present, as required by the Constitution, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister state whether the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) has been engaged in investigations in England on behalf of the Commonwealth Government? Will the Minister also inform me when and by whom such investigations were authorized?
– I shall refer that matter to the Acting Prime Minister and obtain a reply for the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether the offices in the Commonwealth Bank Buildings, Martin-place, Sydney, occupied by Mr. J. G. Riddle, a solicitor, are held by him on lease? If so, how many square feet of floor space are covered by the lease, what is the term of the lease, and what is the rent paid for the premises?
– I point out that my department would have no information as to the terms and conditions on which the Commonwealth Bank Board made the lease available to Mr. Riddle. .
Senator BRAND laid on the table re ports by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works on the following subjects: -
Erection of Temporary Office Buildings at Canberra, A.C.T.
Erection of Abattoirs at Canberra. A.C.T.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce when the report and balance-sheet in connexion with the 1939-40 apple and pear acquisition scheme would be available. The Minister then promised to make inquiries regarding the matter. Can he now say whether the report is available, and when it will be presented to Parliament?
– I cannot give the information desired, but I shall make inquiries and, as soon as the report is available, I shall inform the honorable senator.
– I draw the attention of the Minister ‘representing the Minister for the Army to the fact that, according to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 29th March, a two-day interstate conference with respect to air-raids precautions was held at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, over which Senator Leckie presided. Will the Assistant Minister tell me which States were represented, which services were represented, who were the representatives of the respective States, and who were the representatives of the services.
– Each of the States was represented. New South Wales and Victoria each had six representatives, and some of the other States had a fewer number of representatives. The conference was very successful. An account was given of all of the air-raids precautions work carried out in the various States, and I, personally, was gratified and surprised to find that Australia is in a greater state of preparedness to meet air raids than is generally supposed. If the honorable senator still desires to know the names of the representatives who attended the conference, I shall be happy to obtain them for him.
-Will one result of the Air Raids Precautions Conference in Melbourne, over which the Assistant Minister presided, be that some moral and monetary assistance will be granted to the States which are complaining bitterly of the lack of cooperation accorded to them by the Commonwealth Government?
– The subject of finance was not raised at that meeting, but. it will be discussed at a subsequent meeting of State Premiers and appropriate Commonwealth Ministers. There were no expressions of dissatisfaction. In fact, at the close of the meeting approval was expressed of the fact that the Commonwealth Government was taking such an interest in the matter.
– Has your attention, Mr. President, been drawn to a report published in the Sydney Sun, on the 30th January last, of a Country party conference in New South Wales, at which Senator Abbott is reported to have said, “ The present Senate was not of the calibre it used to be, and senators were tending to become mere rubber stamps “ ? Senator Abbott bitterly attacked the present grouping system, and claimed that the present poor quality of senators was mainly due to that system.
– I have not seen the article referred to by the honorable senator.
– by leave- 1 wish to make a personal explanation. The report referred to by Senator Amour is in some respects incorrect. At no time did I bitterly attack the Senate; that is untrue. I said nothing at that conference which I have not said in this chamber over and over again. I complained that the Senate was tending to become a rubber stamp. I complained of the lessening of initiative exercised in the Senate. I pointed out that the system of election of the Senate, before the grouping system was evolved as the result of acute party politics, induced men who had made some way in the community to stand for election to the Senate, and that that was one of the features of the old system of voting. I also complained that the grouping system accentuated party politics. I do not think that any honorable senator, regardless of party, can conscientiously say to-day that the Senate would not enjoy more freedom, and exercise more initiative if it were, in fact, a House of review; and, consequently, it would not lay itself open to the charge now made outside - I did not make the charge - that the Senate is merely a rubber stamp. I repeat that I said nothing at that conference which I -have not said over and over again in this chamber. I did not attack the calibre of “honorable senators. I saw the report referred to by the honorable senator, but made no attempt to correct it because, generally speaking, none of us can spare the time that would be required to correct reports of this kind. At the same time, I read a report of that conference in another paper which did not refer at all to the aspects complained of by the honorable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether the Government intends to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act with a view to enabling the facte to be placed before Parliament concerning the remission of huge sums of money to wealthy taxpayers? Is it true that the sum of 42,000 was remitted in respect of the income tax assessment of one James Yates? If so, will the Government take action to reduce, or remit, the taxes of many of the poorer sections of the community who cannot meet the payment of their taxes?
– The honorable senator’s question involves a matter of policy, and it is not customary to state matters of policy in answers to questions.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army convey to the Minister the desire of universal trainees in Western Australia that something be done to alter the present system under which they suffer the loss of a considerable portion of their wages when they have to report for their preliminary medical examination? I point out that .1 was unable to interview the Minister on this matter. Will a statement be made in relation to it before Parliament goes into recess?
– I shall bring that matter under the notice of the Minister for the Army, and, if possible, make a statement as the honorable senator requests.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development whether he has any information from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited that it intends to manufacture magnesium? If so, has he any definite information as to when that company will commence production? Has the Department made an exhaustive investigation into the process of manufacture contemplated in order to satisfy itself that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited can manufacture magnesium economically, as was done in respect of the process proposed to be used by the Australian Magnesium Company of Hobart? Has the Government received any guarantee from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited that it will produce magnesium ? If so, at what price will it be put on the Australian market? How does the price proposed to be .charged by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for. magnesium compare with the present import price of 2s. 0½d. per lb., and with the offer made by the Australian Magnesium Company of Hobart to manufacture it and put it on the Australian market at from ls. to ls. 3d. per lb. ?
– The Government has definite information that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is putting up a plant, for the manufacture of magnesium. I understand that that plant will be in production in the latter half of this year. We have no guarantee from the company as to whether its process will be successful, nor in respect of the price to be charged. I point out that as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited did not ask the Government for any assistance, or protection, in this venture, we have no information of the kind asked for by the honorable senator in the latter part of his question.
– Was it necessary for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to apply to the Capital Issues Advisory Board for permission to increase its capital in order to enable it to commence the production of magnesium, or is the company undertaking that work with its private capital?
– I have no knowledge as to what portion of the company’s capital is to be utilized in the establishment of its plant for the manufacture of magnesium. The honorable senator, however, will recall that only recently the
Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited made an additional issue of capital for which, I believe, it secured the approval of the Capital Issues Advisory Board. I am unable to say whether the company is using any portion of that capital on the production of magnesium.
– As no National Broadcasting Station is on the air in Northern Tasmania between 8.15 p.m. and 10 a.m., will the Postmaster-General request the Australian Broadcasting Commission to arrange for Station 7NT to provide a continuous programme during that period ?
– I shall inquire into the matter raised by the honorable senator, and furnish a reply as soon as possible.
– Is the Government negotiating with the Government of Western Australia with a view to the production of steel in that State?
– At the moment I know of no such negotiations, but I shall inquire into the matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air whether the Minister is aware that a number of young men employees in the New South Wales railway service who enlisted and passed tests for the Royal Australian Air Force are denied full opportunities by the New South Wales Government to attend the scholastic course preliminary to taking up service in the Air Force? Since the young men mentioned are all employed alternately two weeks on day shift and two weeks on afternoon shift, and since the New South Wales Government refuses to arrange their employment so as to enable them to attend such classes, will the Minister counter such sabotage of Australia’s war effort by the New South Wales Government by immediately arranging a day class from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. particularly at the Granville technical college, or at some other suitable hour of the day?
– I ask the senator to place his question on the notice-paper. However, his suggestion that the New South Wales Government is sabotaging our war effort depends upon whether the answer to the first part of his question is in the affirmative; and that may not he the case.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I have received from Senator Cameron an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the consideration by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances of delegated legislation referred to it under Standing Order 36.A.”
. I move -
That the Senate,at. its rising, adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow.
– Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in- support of the motion.
– As honorable senators are aware Standing Order 36a provides that all regulations and ordinances laid on the table of the Senate shall be referred to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee for consideration, and, if necessary, report thereon. Prior to the war, the committee was able to keep a general check on all items of delegated legislation issued by the Executive, but with the advent of war, and the passing of the National Security Act, which resulted in the issue of a vast volume of delegated war legislation, the committee has found itself burdened with increased work. I suggest, therefore, that the following questions arise: -
It is for the purpose of obtaining an expression of opinion by the Senate on these questions that I have moved this motion. In considering these questions I direct honorable senators to the following extracts from Dicey’s Introduction to the Study of the Law of Constitution, pages 407 and 408 : -
Under the complex conditions of modern life no government can in times of disorder, or of war, keep the peace at home, or perform its duties towards foreign powers, without occasional use of arbitrary authority
The English executive needs therefore the right to exercise discretionary powers, but the Courts must prevent, and will prevent at any rate where personal liberty is concerned, the exercise by the government of any sort of discretionary power.
After considering the words of this great English jurist, it is not illogical to suggest that there should be some parliamentary check to sec that the Government does not go beyond the bounds set by emergency legislation. The extract which I have read is also proof of the soundness of one of the principles on which the committee has worked in examining regulations, namely, “ To see whether they trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties “. A check on the Executive’s actions should not have any retarding effect on the war effort. After all, Cabinet Ministers have very onerous duties to perform, and often may not have the time to give adequate and statesman like consideration to items of delegated legislation submitted to them by public officials for approval, and may not therefore visualize all the repercussions which may occur, but which might be discovered by a committee charged with the duty of examining the regulations in a systematic manner. Any abuse so discovered and brought to the attention of the Government would probably result in the withdrawal of the offending regulations. If it is the desire of the . Senate that the committee should examine this legislation, then I consider that provision should be made for funds for the following purpose: -
There is evidence of the desirability and also of the need for legal assistance being made available to the committee even before the war, in support of which I quote certain opinions. The late Mr. W. A. Holman, K.O., in a memorandum which he forwarded to a committee of the Senate on the Standing Committee System, said. -
If such a committee is appointed, I would lit! bold enough to suggest that it should be aided by the services of a permanent legal officer, whose duty should be to read carefully all regulations as laid upon thu table and specially direct the attention of the committee to those which affect the liberty of the subject, the rights of trial, powers of arbitrary decision on the part of ministers and officials, powers of levying charges and other allied topics.
Giving evidence before the committee, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in reply to a question as to whether it would not be a big job to watch all the regulations issued, said -
Yes, it might be desirable to have pro fessional assistance (ov the purpose. One qualified man ought to bc able to do the job satisfactorily. His investigation would be of considerable assistance, to a committee.
I presume that the reference to a qualified man means a properly-qualified legal man. During the debate on the motion for the adoption of the committee’s third report on the 14th May, 1936, Hansard, page 1715, Senator Abbott said -
I discussed the work of the committee informally with the Attorney-General some time ago, and pointed out to him that the work was sufficiently heavy to warrant the appointment of a legal officer attached to the Senate staff . . . such a legal officer could devote his whole time to the task. The work which the committee is called upon to curry out is much heavier than honorable senators ever imagined it would be.
Senator Abbott was then a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. During the same debate, Hansard, page 1723, ex-Senator Duncan-Hughes said -
If the Government thinks that we are illequipped legally for our work, why does it not take stops to ensure that proper legal advice is available to us? If that were done, it would take a great deal of work off our shoulders.
To that suggestion the then Leader of the Senate, Sir George Pearce, replied -
If the committee will make that recommendation, I am prepared to agree to it.
Ex-Senator Duncan-Hughes was, at that time, chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. Then, as recently as the 22nd August last, Senator A. J.
McLachlan, who was then chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, after the committee had reviewed the position, made the following statement on behalf of the committee : -
The volume and the complexity of regulations referred to the committee are such that, under the principles outlined, it is impossible, without further skilled assistance, to give adequate consideration to the regulations. The committee has communicated with the Leader of the Senate (Senator MeLeay), with a view to some move being adopted which will facilitate the work of the committee, and he has indicated that he will have to have a Cabinet decision in regard to the proposal submitted by the committee. Meanwhile, the committee thought it desirable that the Senate should be apprised of the position.
The following paragraph appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 2nd February of this year: -
More frequent meetings of the Commonwealth Parliament to control the possibility of abuses under the National Security Act - due to the great powers necessarily conferred upon individuals by regulations, were urged by the Minister for’ the Army (Mr. Spender) yesterday. … As matters now stand, Mr. Spender said, a Minister by merely signing a document, conferred on public servants powers which directly affected every individual throughout the Commonwealth. With the many duties which Ministers had 110V to perform, it was absolutely impossible for any Minister closely to scrutinize every draft, regulation placed before him for signature. Hence it was possible and very probable that too great powers were given to some individuals, or that the regulations were not administered as was intended. Abuses under the regulations could best bc obviated by constructive criticism.
To prevent abuses of National Security Regulations by executives, Mr. Spender went on, it was essential that the Commonwealth Parliament should meet more frequently than it did. The British Parliament met frequently even in the midst of air raids. The meeting of Parliament would give the representatives of the people the right to criticize the huge issue of regulations that was proceeding from week to week and from month to month.
I bring this subject before the Senate in the hope that something will be done in the direction which I have mentioned, and which has been indicated by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender). The question, therefore, is not whether legal assistance should or should not be provided but rather whether that assistance should come from inside or outside the Public Service. The Government considers that assistance from inside the Public Service will suffice, and it has’ recently offered the services of an officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department for this purpose. That, I consider, is an entirely unsatisfactory solution of the problem because an officer employed in the Commonwealth Public Service is not as free to express opinions and to criticize the actions of the Government in the matter of delegated legislation as is a person from outside the Service and independent of the Government. Should a person inside the Service do so he would place himself in an invidious position. One might visualize what would happen if, instead of the Auditor-General scrutinizing and criticizing public accounts, an officer of the Commonwealth Treasury were charged with this responsibility. Such a position would become intolerable for the officer concerned. A similar position would arise if the offer of the Government to provide legal assistance for the committee from inside the Service were adopted.
The second suggestion is that provision should be made for funds to meet the travelling expenses of members of the committee. Although members are empowered to meet together as a committee during the parliamentary recess, to do so would mean that they would have to make long -journeys at their own expense. No doubt this is one reason why meetings of the committee have so far been confined to parliamentary sessions. Provision is already made on the Estimates for similar expenses to members of select committees. If the Senate desires that the committee should peruse the regulations to which I have referred in my motion, then the committee should be supplied with the proper facilities to enable it to perform its task thoroughly. As there is no similar committee appointed by the House of Representatives the responsibility rests on the Senate to see that the people of Australia are provided with efficient instruments whereby a systematic check can be made on the delegated legislation of the Commonwealth Executive. At the last meeting of the committee, which was held on the 13th March, the situation which I have described was again discussed. I stated on behalf of my colleagues and myself that unless the committee was prepared to submit the whole matter to the Senate for its consideration, we would do it ourselves. The committee was not prepared to submit the question to the Senate, which was the opposite of the attitude adopted when Senator A. J. McLachlan was chairman of the committee. At the meeting held on the 33th March, no fewer than 543 items of delegated war legislation and 60 statutory rules made under miscellaneous acts of Parliament were passed en Hoc by the committee. Not one of those items or rules was read or discussed, and in its collective capacity the committee did not consider any of them.
– The honorable senator had plenty of time to examine the regulations and statutory rules.
– The committee did not have the time. Prior to the meeting and ever since Senator A. J. McLachlan presented the report to the Senate on the 22nd August last, I have repeatedly directed the attention of the committee to the matter and to the impossibility of giving adequate attention to the regulations. Finally, the committee decided to take no further notice of my protest. It took the matter into its own hands and passed the 543 items of delegated war legislation and 60 statutory rules en bloc. I objected to all those items being passed, and I asked that my objection to the motion approving of the items should be recorded.
– The honorable senator did not look at the regulations.
– How could the honorable senator know whether I did or did not examine the regulations. I receive all regulations as they are issued. It does not matter for the purposes of this motion whether I peruse the regulations as an individual senator. I do peruse them. The committee is not doing the job it was appointed to carry out and which its members consented to do when they accepted appointment. The members of the committee have acted, as Senator Abbott said to-day when discussing another matter, as a convenient rubber stamp for the Government. I must say in fairness to Senator Spicer that he stated at the committee meeting held on the 13th March that he had examined the regulations and he had not found anything objectionable in them. However, he did not confer with the other members of the committee but simply stated that there was nothing objectionable in the regulations. Then one of the members of the committee moved that they be approved en bloc and the motion was agreed to. In fairness to the members of the committee I must make it clear that it is a physical impossibility for them to carry out the work of that body. When Senator Wilson was chairman and before the National Security Act was passed, the committee was able to some degree to keep abreast of the regulations as they were issued. It has been impossible to do so since the National Security Act was passed. There is another . aspect of the question that, should be considered. People outside Parliament are becoming increasingly apprehensive of the number of regulations that, are being issued and they are viewing the matter with a considerable amount of suspicion because immediately there has been a public outcry concerning a regulation promulgated the Government has withdrawn the regulation and issued a new regulation. That has occurred in several cases. The people want to know where Parliament enters into this matter. I have been frequently challenged on the question at public meetings and I have stated in reply that a committee of the Senate has been appointed to examine all regulations but the volume of work to be done is too heavy for the committee. Further, I have advocated that the committee should meet during the parliamentary recess and examine thoroughly all regulations issued. It is true that some regulations can be classed as being of minor importance as compared with others but that does not justify the committee approving of regulations without discussion All the regulations should be examined and discussed by members of the committee with the aid of the explanatory notes furnished by the departments. That course has not been adopted. I have stated my case dispassionately and with no desire to reflect on the other members of the committee. I have directed attention to the circumstances that have arisen and which are beyond the control of the committee.
– Is the honorable senator voicing the views of the members of the committee or his own views?
– I have stated the position as I see it as a member of the committee and as I understand it is viewed by the committee. I consider that the committee should be provided with the assistance of a fully qualified lawyer outside the public service whose duty it would be to examine carefully all delegated legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament and then report to the committee. Adoption of that course would save the time of Parliament to a large degree because if the committee considered that a regulation were not in conformity with the act of Parliament under which it was framed it could be submitted to the Senate. The opinion has been expressed by the committee that the regulations issued under the National Security Act are regulations over which the committee has no jurisdiction or on which it has no right of comment.
– Who has expressed that view?
– I am not in the witness box for the honorable senator’s convenience. The statement has been made that the committee has no jurisdiction over regulations issued under the National Security Act because the act gives to the Government complete powers. When the matter was discussed at a meeting of the committee it was admitted, I think by Senator Spicer, that in special circumstances the committee could direct the attention of the Senate to a regulation which the committee considered was not in conformity with the act under which it was made. If the committee has no jurisdiction over regulations made under the National Security Act they should not be referred to it and the committee should not be asked to accept any responsibility for them. The only regulations the committee should be asked to examine are those over which it has jurisdiction in accordance with the Acts Interpretation Act. I hope that an improvement of the situation will result from this discussion.
– I listened with interest to Senator Cameron’s speech. Having had experience on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, I realize that the committee has a lot of work to do, particularly if it does its job thoroughly. I remind the honorable senator, however, that we are at war and that, the National Security Act having been passed and the powers of the Executive widened, many more regulations are made than would be made in peace-time. I do not propose to speak at any length on this matter, because important measures await our consideration, but I shall briefly reply to the questions asked by Senator Cameron. His first question was whether the Senate desired the committee to continue. I should say that it does, because the committee can do useful work. His second question was whether the Government would make money available for the employment of a legal adviser to the committee from outside the Public Service. That question has been asked and answered before. For various reasons the Government will not appoint a legal adviser to the committee from outside the Public Service. Any man appointed to give legal assistance to the committee would have to be a man of high standing in the legal profession, for whom we should have to pay reasonable fees. But that is not the main reason why the Government is not prepared to appoint an outside man. When the committee directed attention to the fact that regulations were being promulgated without reference to the Solicitor-General, the Attorney-General and the Leader of the Senate gave an assurance that in future all regulations would be sent to the Solicitor-General for examination in order to ensure that they were not ultra vires.
– And that was done.
– Yes. In addition, departments were asked when forwarding regulations to the Attorney-General’s Department for scrutiny to submit a report giving the reasons why the regulations were needed. We know that lawyers differ. They are paid to differ. What would be the position if an outside legal authority were to give a legal opinion on a regulation that was in conflict with the opinion given by the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, to whom the Government looks for its legal advice? The position would be ludicrous, and the High Court would have to decide as between the two opinions. The committee has much more important work to do than deal mainly with the legal side of regulations. We are not prepared to appoint a man from outside, but we are quite willing to give the committee the services of an officer from the department.
The next question askedby the honorable senator was whether the Government would make funds available to meet the travelling expenses of members of the committee. I realize that there is a lot of work to be done, and I shall bring that question before Cabinet, which may be willing to do something on the lines suggested by the honorable senator.
The honorable senator went out of his way to say that some one had suggested to him that the committee had no jurisdiction over regulations made under the National Security Act. Senator Spicer, by interjection, asked the honorable senator from whom he had obtained that advice. It is well known to every honorable senator that the committee has jurisdiction over all regulations. Every individual senator has the right and the power to move for the disallowance of a regulation. I suppose that we are all perturbed about the drastic nature of some of the regulations, but we are at war, and we have no time to delay with legal arguments matters that have to be attended to quickly. I repeat that the honorable senator has the right to move for the disallowance of any regulation. If hehas wrapped his regulations in red tape and has not perused them and does not know what they contain, he has fallen down on his job, not only as a member of the committee, but also as a senator.
– I know what they contain.
– If the honorable senator knows the contents of the regulations and thinks that they are offensive, he has the right to move for their disallowance.
– Ninety per cent. of the Ministers do not know the contents of half of the regulations that have been issued.
– Ministers have a tremendous amount of detailed work to do in war-time. They have to rely largely on the advice tendered to them by the Solicitor-General. The Government is prepared to accept his approval of a regulation in preference to any legal advice from outside. The only place in which to settle conflict is in the court. Although Senator ‘Cameron had a perfect right to bring this subject before the chamber, I trust that the Senate will not take up much time in debating it. I know the worth of the work that the committee is doing, but I ask its members to realize that the position is ever so much more difficult now that we are at war than it would be in peace-time. I sincerely trust that the committee will stick to its job and do the best it can in the difficult circumstances, because if the committee functions properly, it can perform a useful work for the Commonwealth.
Senator CLOTHIER (Western Australia) 4.6j. - ‘Senator Cameron has raised this matter at meetings of the Regulations and Ordinance Committee. It is true that a little while ago regulations were easy to deal with, but. after Senators McLeay, Wilson and A. J. McLachlan left; the committee, regulations have come before it in dozens, and it has had no chance to deal with them. Senator A. J. McLachlan suggested at a. meeting of the committee that a solicitor from outside be employed. It is easy for the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) to say that the Solicitor-General has approved the regulations which are issued and that we should therefore abide by them. What would happen to an employee of the Attorney-General’s Department if he gave advice to the committee contrary to the advice that was tendered to’ the Government by the Solicitor-General? He would not. dare to do so. That is why we want a man from outside. Senator Cameron has made no charges against any member of the committee because all members do their best, but they require assistance. In fairness to Senator Spicer, I must say that he is an excellent chairman. He knows the law from A to Z, but- he, like the rest of us, has had no chance to deal with the large numbers of regulations that have come before us. As a Western Australian, I live farther from the centre of operations than any other member of the committee, but I do my best to keep up with the flow of regulations. I have had no chance to do so. Regardless of cost, wc should have legal assistance from outside. No officer of the Attorney-General’s Department would express an opinion contrary to that of his boss.
.- I, as the newly-appointed chairman of. the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, am glad that Senator Cameron has raised this matter, because, at meetings of the committee, hi3 adversions to it from time to time have impeded the work of the committee and prevented it from getting on with the real job that it has to do, namely, consider regulations as they are issued from day to day. The principal question which he submitted to the Senate is the suggestion that we should have the assistance of an outside legal adviser. 1 must confess that I am a little surprised that a legal adviser should be so popular with Senator Cameron and some of his colleagues, having regard to some of the comments that I have heard in this chamber. Before -we can determine that it is desirable that the committee should be assisted at present by an outside legal adviser, because of the prolific regulations with which it has to deal, it is desirable to examine the character of the problem with which the committee is now concerned. Before the war, and before the National Security Act was passed, most of the problems with which a committee of this kind would be concerned would be legal problems. They would be questions as to whether a regulation was authorized by the particular act of Parliament under which it was framed, and whether it was the kind of provision that ought to be made by regulation or whether it ought to be the subject of legislation. Those are problems in the solution of which the services of lawyers might be very useful, but most of the regulations made to-day are based on the National Security Act.- 1 doubt whether the legality of any of the- regulations made under the National Security Act could be challenged successfully. Consequently, the legal problem has been greatly reduced.
It is not difficult in most instances at a glance, to see that regulations made under the National Security Act are valid, because practically anything is authorized under that act. There is therefore no legal problem to be decided. It seems to me that the task which this committee has to perform now is very important. That task is to examine individual regulations- as they are issued in order to ascertain whether any of them could be said to be an abuse of the very wide powers which have been conferred upon the Executive. I submit that an outside lawyer would not be of much use in the solution of that problem.
– Hear, hear!
– It is a problem which concerns members of the committee who have to examine regulations for themselves. In most cases they will say, “ Well, we cannot object to that”, but, here and there, they may come across a regulation which they will think goes a bit too far and to which they should direct the attention of the Senate with a view to its disallowance. That is my view on the question of legal assistance as it presents itself to-day.
I want to say another word about the method that was employed in passing a large number of regulations at the last meeting of the committee. The meetings of the committee that I have attended since I was appointed to it, have, unfortunately, been concerned in the main with the question that Senator Cameron has raised to-day, with the result that we have not got down to detailed consideration of the regulations. The position which presented itself at the end of the last period of the session and also at the first meeting in this period was that there was a large number of regulations which had not been considered by the committee. For the committee to have considered each of these regulations individually would have been ridiculous, and would have impeded the future conduct of its operations. The important thing, from my point of view, and, I think, from the point of view of other members of the committee, was that we should attempt to dispose of the unwieldy collection of regulations that had accumulated since July of last year, and start again with a clean sheet. In preparation for dealing with that position, I personally went through every regulation which was presented to the meeting on that occasion, and other members of the committee indicated that they, too, had examined the regulations individually. I intimated that I saw no objection to the regulations proposed to be passed, and I asked whether any member of the committee objected to any of them. Apart from indicating a general objection to the procedure being followed, Senator Cameron was unable to indicate any individual regulation to which he objected.
– That is not correct. The honorable senator himself indicated his objection to regulation 58 and to others.
– My recollection is that the committee did not deal with regulation 5S on that occasion. The result was that, in the view of the committee, there was no reason for it to refer back to the Senate any of the regulations that were passed on that occasion. The Senate can feel perfectly satisfied that those members of the committee who took their duty seriously had gone through each of the regulations before attending the meeting of the committee, and I suggest that, in many circumstances, that is the practical way of approach to this problem. Members of the committee receive these regulations by post almost daily. If we make it our business to do so, we can deal with them almost daily as they come in, and either indicate a query regarding a particular regulation or show in some way that we see no objection to it. Then, when a meeting of the committee is held, it will be possible for it, not to deal with every regulation individually, as dozens of them are merely formal alterations of existing provisions, but to pick out the particular regulations to which members consider there may be some objection, and examine them in detail with a view to deciding whether they should be referred to the Senate. If this task were approached in that way, it would be possible for the committee to function perfectly satisfactorily, and to see that in the framing of regulations there is no abuse by the Executive of the very great powers conferred upon it.
– -Senator Cameron is to be congratulated upon having drawn attention to the position that has arisen in connexion with the work of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. To the Senate, and to this committee in particular, has been delegated the power to examine all regulations promulgated from time to time ‘by the Government under the provisions of the National Security Act and of other acts. When, owing to the absence of Senator Wilson, I acted as chairman of the committee, I was under the impression that an undue burden was cast on myself and- on individual members of the committee. Lt is true, as Senator Spicer has pointed out, that a number of the regulations that come under the notice of the committee are described by lawyers as “ chicken f ee( “, but, when I undertook this work, I found that the multiplicity of the regulations made it necessary for me to work at my hotel on three nights until midnight or 1 a.m., so that I could give to the committee certain assurances regarding the regulations. Surely that is not what is expected of the chairman or of the members of this committee.
My friend, Senator Spicer, seems to have overlooked the fact that there is another side to this matter apart from the question of whether a regulation is ultra vires the act under which it has been promulgated. The Minister himself gave us a lucid account in November, 1938, of the functions of this committee. He said that it must decide whether all of the regulations are in accordance with the statutes under which they have been promulgated. It must also see that they do not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties, and that they do not unduly make the rights and liberties of citizens dependent on administrative, and not upon judicial, decisions. The liberty of the subject must be carefully safeguarded, and in this matter the Regulations and Ordinances Committee is the watch-dog for both branches of the legislature. Notwithstanding what the Minister has said, I claim that the committee should receive adequate assistance in its work. During the time when I was the temporary chairman of the committee, I felt that it was impossible to ask the staff at present employed in helping the committee to do the necessary spade work. I thought that it was unfair to ask any legal officer under the control of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to express an opinion regarding a regulation which had been passed by the Solicitor-General himself, nor do I think that a junior officer in the department should be asked to express an opinion whether a regulation violated certain (principles. We could not ask the administrative officer who is secretary of this committee to do this work, because he is already overburdened. I submit that, although the present chairman of the committee is energetic and capable, and well able to watch the matter from the legal side, the committee is entitled to the assistance to which I have referred. The objections to some of the regulations and to subversive action which have been resounding through the press in the capital cities during the last few weeks, have come, not from this committee, but from members of the House of Representatives. I think that the committee should have expressed itself on this matter one way or the other. Surely the proper body to bring it under the notice of this Parliament was the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
– That matter has not yet been reached.
– That points to the necessity more than ever for the appointment of some officer to help the chairman and the other members of the committee to speed up its work. I had to wade through hundreds of regulations before the speed of the work’ reached the tempo that has been attained to-day. One day we have a regulation issued under the National Security Act, and the following day we have a regulation amending a regulation passed the previous day. I suggest the appointment of an outside legal assistant, skilled in the matter of the preservation of the liberty of the subject and the guarding of civil liberties, which are the very things for which our nation is fighting to-day. Then we should feel that we had a certain degree of security against the improper exercise by the Executive of its very wide powers. If the Government is not prepared to make a legal assistant available to the committee,
I suggest that provision be made for the committee to meet in Sydney or in Melbourne, when Parliament is in recess, in order to prevent heavy accumulation of regulations when the committee meets in Canberra. If the (Government is not prepared to assist the committee in this matter, the Senate should, perhaps, insist on its right to have the work done thoroughly. In other parts of the world certain parliamentary committees do work of great value to the body politic as a whole. I again appeal to the Minister to render aid to the committee along the lines requested.
– As Senator Cameron has quoted some remarks of mine in support of his contention, I say quite frankly that I cannot see any reason for altering the opinion which I expressed on that occasion. I shall not take up the time of the committee by traversing the ground which has’ just been covered by Senator A. J. McLachlan. I agree with a good deal of what the honorable senator said. It is considerate of Senator Spicer, as a legal man, to devote the enormous amount of time which he has already given, and will give in. the future, to his work as chairman of this committee. I served on the committee when the present honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) was its chairman, and the work which we did in that capacity, at a time when we were not at war, was colossal.
– The work then was a mere circumstance compared with what it must be to-day.
– Yes; and whilst the war lasts the Government will be issuing sheaves of regulations. If the Government can see its way clear to afford the assistance to the committee requested in the motion, it seems to me that the proper course to follow would not be merely, as Senator A. J. McLachlan has suggested, for the chairman to consult an assisting legal officer at will, but for all regulations to be referred as a matter of course to that officer who should be obliged to report to the chairman of the committee. ‘ It would then become the responsibility of the chairman to deal further with the regulations. In that way all matters of this kind would be brought. under the notice of the committee, and a great deal of time and labour would be saved. It is not fair that Senator Spicer, simply because he is a legal man, should be asked to burn the candle at both ends in attending to his work as chairman of the committee. The time will come when the chairman will not be a legal man ; and this job is almost an impossibility for a layman. Undoubtedly, the chairman of the committee needs legal assistance, because anomalies are bound to crop up in respect of regulations. At the same time it is hard, as Senator A. J. McLachlan has pointed out, to place upon an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department the onus of overruling the decisions of the Solicitor-General, or some other officer in that department senior to himself. The circumstances of war alters the position a good deal. I support the suggestion that the committee should be enabled to avoid rushing its sittings. When I was a member of it my experience was that so soon as I arrived in Canberra I found a notice in the clubroom informing me of a sitting of the committee, and I never seemed to have sufficient time to attend to my other work. It was a whole-time job. Therefore, arrangements should be made to enable the committee to sit in the capital cities, when the Parliament is not in session, at times convenient to its members.
. - I am not a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. However, with every other member of the Parliament I receive copies of regulations as they are issued. If a proposal that a committee of members of both Houses should be appointed to examine regulations is made sincerely, it must be intended that that committee should be enabled to do its job properly. No member of this Parliament will admit that such a committee can work effectively if it be able to sit only for one or two hours on a day when Parliament is in session. In such circumstances it could not do justice to itself. This committee is most important. It should be afforded every facility to meet in Canberra when Parliament is in recess, and the services of an experienced legal adviser should be’ made available to it. The Minister should bring before the Government the advisability of providing travelling allowances to members. It is essential that all members of the committee individually should be given every opportunity to examine these regulations. It should not be accepted on the mere word of the chairman that everything is in order. I have heard much discussion in the House of Representatives regarding regulations and, consequently, I do not believe that everything is in order in respect of them. A committee of this kind is quite competent to deal with regulations. However, I am not so foolish as to believe that it could go thoroughly into every regulation if it be obliged to hold its meetings on a day when Parliament is sitting. I trust, therefore, that the matter will also be raised in the House of Representatives with the object of ensuring that the committee will function as it will be expected to function; otherwise, it will develop into a farce.
– Honorable senators will recall the circumstances in which this committee was set up. Many honorable senators were of opinion that the Executive was disposed, for reasons of convenience supported by the attitude of heads of departments, to legislate by regulation instead of by act of Parliament. Honorable senators will also recall that when Sir Hal Colebatch., as a member of this chamber, brought the matter forward he quoted a warning by the author, of The New Despotism, the late Chief Justice of Great Britain, against the growing tendency in Great Britain to legislate by regulation. Subsequently, a committee was appointed to inquire into the position, and it recommended the appointment of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. Speaking generally, it will be admitted that this committee has done its work ably. Originally, the main question which occupied its attention was whether regulations issued from time to time were in conformity with the respective acts under which they were promulgated. No difficulty was experienced on that point; but following the passage of the National Security Act a real difficulty arose. At, that time I raised the question at a meeting of the committee as to whether or not the practice of the
Executive to legislate by regulation was not accepted by the Parliament itself. Under the National ‘Security Act the Government, was empowered to issue regulations in respect of, not a particular act, but anything and everything. Parliament, with its eyes open, gave that power to the Government, knowing quite well that the Government would have to be’ guided by circumstances as they arose. For all practical purposes that meant that the Government was empowered to legislate by regulation rather than by act of Parliament. I pointed out to the committee that no limitation whatever was placed upon the Government in that respect, and that any other act of Parliament, or any other regulation, could be over-ridden by a regulation promulgated under the National Security Act. Insofar as no such regulation could be considered ultra vires any legislation, I concluded that it was a waste of time for the committee to review regulations issued under that legislation. I urged that it was a matter for each individual member of the Parliament to take the initiative in challenging any particular regulation if he thought that it interfered unduly with the liberty of the subject. That is not the responsibility of any committee; it is the responsibility of individual members of Parliament. I emphasized that the responsibility of the committee was mainly to challenge a regulation only on the ground that its subjectmatter bc the subject not of a regulation but of legislative enactment. Parliament cannot rely upon this committee to say whether any regulation interferes with the rights or liberty of the subject; that is the concern of individual members of Parliament. Individual members may differ as to whether .a regulation interferes unduly with the liberty of the subject. I still maintain that the committee should review regulations issued from time to time, but only with the object of curtailing the tendency on the part of the Executive to legislate by regulation on matters which should be the subject of legislative enactment. In view of the provisions of the National Securitiy Act, the committee should not be asked to challenge a regulation simply on the ground that it is not in conformity with the act under which it is proclaimed.
– The honorable senator is not suggesting that the. committee should be disbandoned ?
– No. The question has been raised as to whether the committee should have legal assistance. My opinion is that a lawyer would not be in a position to advise the committee whether interference with the liberty of the subject was or was not involved. That is purely a matter for the individual. Honorable senators must realize that if the committee is to meet only when Parliament is in session, it cannot possibly cope with all the work that it is expected to do. Private members have to attend party meetings and deal with correspondence, and the duties of the committee occupy considerable time. It is idle to say that we have not agreed to all regulations framed under the National Security Act. What is there to disagree with unless it is ou questions of policy? Is policy to be decided by individual members of the committee? It was never intended that an individual should determine whether a regulation interfered with the liberty of the subject.
– Should the committee deal with those regulations?
– I would prefer not to deal with them, because I do not think that the committee could agree unanimously whether a particular regulation interfered with the liberty of the subject. In the matter of regulations framed under ordinary legislation, the committee can readily draw the attention of the Senate to anything which it considers may not be in conformity with the act under which it is framed or it can recommend that a certain matter should be the subject of legislation.
. - in reply - The Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) objected to the services of a legal man being paid for by the Government, but in other instances the Government has obtained outside assistance, and no objection has been raised. Because of war exigencies, the Government has found that the work which it has to do is much greater than usual, and outside assistance has been sought and paid for. That is exactly what I am suggesting. I cannot understand the attitude of the Minister in refusing to recommend payment for the assistance which I ask, and, at the same time, raising no objection to paying for outside assistance required by the Government in many other directions. I was surprised to hear him say that there was more important business to consider than the legal aspect of regulations. Personally, I think it is the legal aspect that is one of the things that really matters. A regulation is issued, and we are asked to consider whether it is in conformity with the provisions of the act under which it is formed. Surely that is a legal matter.
– That is not what the Minister said.
– It is what I understood him to say. The Minister said that honorable senators have the right to challenge regulations. That is true, but, in the circumstances, it is impossible to do so. As the honorable gentleman will remember., honorable senators in opposition challenged regulation 128, and the matter was fully debated in this chamber. The same regulation was also challenged in the House of Representatives. Quite a number of regulations have been under our consideration, but we have refrained from moving motions for their disallowance in order to see if it were possible to have the regulations modified. For instance, strong objection has been taken to regulation 42a, but we have not yet moved for its disallowance. We may do so at a later date. I mention that matter to show that we are doing all we can to meet the Government in this respect.
– Did the committee object to regulation 42a?
– It has not yet been dealt with by the committee.
– But it no longer exists.
– Regulation 69 is former regulation 42a in an amended form. Senator Spicer suggested that I had impeded the work of the committee.
– I did not say that. I said that the raising of this subject impeded the work of the committee.
– That is a distinction without a difference. I raised the question and, therefore, I think that my construction of the honorable senator’s remark is quite correct. If the honorable senator believes that the committee is not acting as it should, it is his duty to say so. The honorable senator also said, in effect, that in my estimation legal men had apparently become popular. It is not a question of popularity; it is one of responsibility.
Regardless of how our opinions differ in some respects, we must admit that a legal man is better qualified than is a layman to deal with these problems. We need an outside person who will accept the responsibility on behalf of the committee. We could confer with him on whatever regulations we considered required clarification.
– The services of a legal man would be required only occasionally.
– That is so. I suggest that if the opportunity were given to members of the committee to deal with the regulations as they should be dealt with, then, as has been suggested by greater authorities than myself, members of the committee would become expert in these matters, and would not have to call upon the assistance of a legal man to any great degree. If a regulation be issued under the National Security Act, and members of the committee think that the Government has exceeded its powers, as was done in the case of the regulation which fixed wages, we could direct attention of the Senate to the matter. I disagree with Senator Herbert Hays when he says that, in effect, we should not deal with the regulations framed under the National Security Act. Senator Spicer said that an outside legal man would not be qualified, but, in my opinion, such a person would be just as qualified as any legal man in Parliament. If an opinion were expressed on certain regulations by an outside member of the legal profession, it would be accepted in preference to the opinion of a man who wasa member of one of the political parties in this chamber.
– My statement was not in relation to legal questions. I said that the outsider would not be competent to deal with political questions.
– It is said that outsiders know more of the political game than do those who are closely associated with it. I know quite a number of legal men outside of Parliament who consider themselves more qualified, from the political point of view, to deal with matters, than their learned friends within Parliament.
– The honorable senator is speaking for himself. iSenator CAMERON.- No. I am speaking for the gentlemen to whom I have referred. They are high in the profession and are looked upon with great respect and esteem. Senator. Spicer also said that I had not objected to any of the regulations. Thatis fairly correct; I did not object when the committee was discussing these regulations. I had quite a number of objections but I wanted the point I am now raising cleared up first. As soon as I get a regulation I read it and file it for reference. I mark regulations or portion of regulations which I think are open to criticism, and a full discussion on those points is usually held at meetings of unionists, trades hall councils, and at Labour conferences. I not only file and mark the regulations, but very frequently I have to obtain additional copies so that they can be distributed and discussed by persons who would not accept my opinion but who wish to read them themselves. Some regulations appear to contravene the principles which are supposed to be the basis of the committee’s work. These principles are as follows: -
The regulations are discussed at great length by the unionists, the trades hall councils and others in the light of those principles, a copy of which I have supplied to them. They are also published in newspapers supporting Labour principles. I trust that the Government will see fit to try to meet the requests that have been made on behalf of the committee. I can assure the Minister that, so far as I am capable of judging, each member of the committee wants to do his job in the way that the Government expects him to do it. If the Government will do as I suggest we should not have the complaints concerning . regulations which we have had.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Position of Enlisted OFFICERS
Having regard to the probable temporary termination of militia camps, what is proposed to safeguard the position of militia officers who relinquished other callings and enlisted for Australian Imperial Force recruit training at depots for the duration of the war, and who were in January last recalled for training of militia and demobilized from Australian Imperial Force recruit training?
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer: -
The position of an officer who is refused reinstatement in his employment by the employer by whom he was employed at the date upon which he volunteered for war service or received a notice requiring him to perform war service (as the case may be) is safeguarded by National Security (Reinstatement in Civil Employment) Regulations. As far as the military positions of these officers are concerned, no undertaking as to their reappointment can be given as they are not called up for any specific period, but only during such time as the need for their services exists.
asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
In order to do everything possible to extend the defences of Western Australia, and to reduce the dependence of that State on the eastern States for supplies, and having regard to Western Australia’s proximity to Singapore for the supply of munitions, will the Government take steps to establish war industries in Western Australia and make provision in that State for extensive training of skilled artisans ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Government is at present engaged in a survey of the possibilities and technical difficulties in connexion with the establishment of additional defence activity in Western Australia. Munitions orders have already been placed in that State where a technical training scheme is in operation. As additional equipment becomes available the scheme will be capable of extension.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The hill itself is of a nature not requiring a lengthy explanation. It provides for certain alterations of the definition of “ Australian soldier “ contained in section 4 of the War Service Homes Act 1918- 1937. Its purpose is to include within that definition, members of the naval, military or air forces of the Commonwealth of Australia who, during the war which commenced in September, 1939, were enlisted or appointed for active service outside Australia or on a ship of war, and also to include persons who were members of the forces of the Bang’s dominions other than the Commonwealth, and who, prior to their enlistment or engagement for active service, resided in Australia. The measure proposes the inclusion within the scope of eligibility to participate in the benefits of the act persons who, during the continuance of the present war, were employed under agreement as master, officer or seamen, or under indenture as. apprentices in sea-going services on any ships engaged in trading between a port of a State or territory of the Commonwealth, and any other port outside Australia and who, during such employment, were domiciled in Australia. The principal act, as amended by Act No. 35 of 1920, included, as eligible, members of the mercantile marine employed during the war of 1914-1918 who were domiciled in Australia and recipients of either the Australian mercantile marine war zone badge or the British mercantile marine medal.
The hazards and dangers of the present war are no less “than those which confronted officers and men of the sea-going services of the last war and the extension of the privileges of the scheme will commend itself to all who have some appreciation of the splendid services being rendered to the Empire by the mercantile marine. The amendments to section 4 also bring within the act certain dependants of the persons mentioned, similarly as the principal act includes dependants of members of the 1914-1918 forces. The act as it is now constituted covers only persons who were enlisted or engaged for active service and certain other denned service abroad during the war of 1914- 1918 and it is considered proper that the facilities provided by the principal act in connexion with assistance to acquire homes should be extended to those who in a like manner serve their King and country during the present war. There is no doubt that there will bo a number of the members of the forces who, upon their return to Australia,, will be desirous of marrying and setting up homes of their own, whilst others who are already married will also desire to acquire a home under the scheme.
The measure now before the Senate is practical and forms part of tho broader field of repatriation. It is of national importance because it will encourage the assumption of family responsibilities on the part of some of Australia’s finest manhood, and, where the returned sailor, soldier or airman is already married, provide facilities to secure a home on easy terms for proper rehabilitation to the normal of peacetime life. The principal act was not introduced until December, 1918, after the conclusion of the war of 1914-1918, but it is considered that wherever possible matters which come within the category of post-war reconstruction should be initiated during the currency of the present war in order to lessen congestion when a demobilization of the Forces begins. There is evidence of a shortage in cottage homes throughout the Commonwealth, and whilst this, it is anticipated, will not become as acute as it was in 1918, the existing position warrants the proposed amendment in order to permit applications made by members of the Forces returning from active service overseas being accepted and dealt with gradually in their order of lodgement.
– Who will deal with the applications ?
– The War Service Homes Commissioner. There may, of necessity, be limited financial resources available for loans applied for under this act - due to the need for war expenditure in other directions - and loans will be subject to the funds which Parliament will be able to appropriate for the purpose. It is interesting to recall that during the war of 1914-1918 there were approximately 416,000 enlistments and to the 30th June, 1940, the total homes provided under the war service homes scheme was 37,385. The number of homes still subject to the act at the same date was 25,851. Although no forecast can he made at the present stage as to the number of enlistments which it will be necessary to accept for active service overseas during the present war, it is not anticipated that the percentage of eligible persons applying for loans will be in excess of the percentage under the principal act. That percentage works out at nine. Generally, the measure is of a machinery nature for the purpose of enabling the War Service Homes Commission to extend to members on active service in the present war benefits equal to those which were available in the war of 1914-1918. 1 can assure honorable senators that under the act that has been operating to date, a most useful and valuable service has been rendered to a large group of persons whose services to the nation called for the, fullest possible recognition. I consider it an especial privilege to submit and commend this measure to honorable senators, and I trust that the Senate will, without delay, pass it through all stages.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Leckie) read a first time.
Senator LECKIE (Victoria - Assistant
Minister) [5.10]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As honorable senators are aware, the Government is introducing a measure to provide for the payment of cash allowances for the benefit of children, and I suggest that honorable senators reserve their comments on child endowment until a subsequent measure is before the Senate. It is difficult to believe that honorable senators will disapprove of the principle of child endowment, but it is perhaps necessary to remind them that the new scheme, urgent and desirable as it is, must be paid for. This bill is designed to provide the greater part of the revenue which is necessary to finance the Government’s scheme of child endowment;. In other words, it will provide funds with which the Government will supplement the wages and income of the family man. The importance of the family man to this country is too often overlooked. We are a comparatively small community in a vast country, and in our time some nations have assumed that might is right. If we are to survive as a nation there must be at least a sufficient number of Australians to develop and defend this country. In such circumstances, the family assumes a role of paramount importance. At this point I draw the attention of honorable senators to two simple facts. The first is that in each of the last eight years, that is, from 1932 to 1939, the birth-rate in Australia has been lower than the replacement rate. The other is that at present there are 100,000 fewer children under the age of fifteen years in this country than there were seven years ago. These facts are of the utmost significance to all of us. The state of affairs indicated is thoroughly bad, but features even worse can develop. A declining birth-rate has a snowball effect: its evils increase. Unless, therefore, something is done, quickly, to arrest the decline of the birth-rate, we must soon find ourselves surrounded with difficulties which will be infinitely greater than those with which we are confronted. This is the greatest of our dangers. Even if this legislation does nothave the effect of increasing the birth-rate - and that may be open to doubt - it will at least have the effect of ensuring that children will, from babyhood, have those necessaries and comforts which will enable them to grow into healthy and sturdy men and women. It would be idle to assume that our troubles will be solved merely by the provision of additional income for the family man. That is only the first step in a wider national programme for the encouragement of family life. It is, however, a very substantial step, and the bill now before honorable senators will make that step possible for without finance the additional family income cannot be provided.
This, therefore, is a measure of more than ordinary importance. Its objects are the preservation of our nationhood and of our freedom. These are the issues which honorable senators must have in mind when debating the bill. Only the seriousness of the problem could justify the Government in introducing measures for the encouragement of family life at a time when the nation is engaged in a war of unparalleled magnitude. The fact that the defence of the nation must cost valuable lives is an additional and pressing reason why this and cognate measures should be adopted. The scheme will be costly. The benefits to be provided are wider than those provided under the scheme which at present operates in New South Wales. That scheme is restricted by finance and by the fear that high costs would handicap New South Wales industries which operate in competition with those in other States. In New South Wales a means test is imposed, which takes into account the income of the family. The proposed scheme is not restricted by fear of its effects on interstate trade; it is on a national basis, and it is more costly because it is far wider in its scope. Because it is so comprehensive it cannot be financed from present revenues. All the revenue which can be raised through existing channels will be needed to pay for the defence of this country. Although we may increase existing taxes to the limit and expand credit to the limit of safety we shall still find it difficult to pay the costs of the war. Even for such a purpose as family endowment we cannot afford to reduce on expenditure on defence. It may be possible to provide some part of the co3t of the child endowment scheme from Consolidated Revenue, but the larger portion must come from new revenue raised for the purpose. No means of raising that revenue is more appropriate than the proposed tax on pay-rolls.
Wages are now fixed at flat rates regardless of the size of the family. Family endowment is a special supplement to wages and is graduated according to the size of the family. It is, therefore, a logical adjunct to the wages system and, as such, the money required to pay it should be obtained by a tax on the payrolls of the employers. It is necessary that the Commonwealth should collect, pool and distribute the money to the families, because, obviously, if the employer had to pay higher wages to men with families than to single men, the family man would not get a job at all. It is proposed that roughly two-thirds of the cost of the scheme will be provided by the tax on pay-rolls, which is approximately the proportion that will be paid out to wage-earners. Briefly, the bill provides for a tax at the rate of 2-J per cent, on wages paid by employers. With a few exceptions such as hospitals, charities, religious institutions, &c, all classes of employers will be liable to pay the tax and all wages, which includes remunerations of all kinds, will be taken into account. In the appropriate machinery bill, an exemption will be provided which will exclude those employers who do not pay more than £20 in wages in any week in a financial year. Employers whose pay-roll so fluctuates that it sometimes exceeds £20 and sometimes falls below that amount will get the benefit of an adjustment at the end of the year if their total wages bill for the year does not amount to £1,040. The tax will be paid by those employers who pay wages in excess of £1,040 a year and then only on that excess.
The argument that this tax will be passed on and considerably add to the price of goods to the consumer is hardly tenable since the average percentage of labour in manufactured articles is approximately 22. This means that the added cost on the completed goods will not bc 2^ per cent, as alleged, but only one-half of 1 per cent. The argument that endowment will not be paid out of Consolidated Revenue is unsound. The object of this bill is to increase the Consolidated Revenue so that endowment may be paid from it. The issue before us is plain. In the belief that the payroll tax is the most logical and appropriate means of raising finance to make child endowment possible, I commend the bill to honorable senators.
– The Opposition will not oppose the passage of this bill. We do not like this method of financing the child endowment scheme and we accept no responsibility for it. It is the Government’s job. It is bringing down the bills. We want child endowment and we shall proceed as quickly as possible to allow this bill to become law.
– Like all honorable senators I am in favour of a child endowment scheme, but the Assistant Minister (Senator Leckie) advanced few, if any, arguments in favour of the method proposed in this bill to raise the money with which to pay the endowment. The’ Assistant Minister dealt at length with Australia’s receding birth rate, which we all deplore, but none of us can foresee what real effect child endowment will have on the birth rate.
– On a point of order, I suggest that the proper time to debate points such as the honorable senator is now raising is when the Child Endowment Bill is before the Senate. If we have a general debate on child endowment now the passage of this measure will be delayed.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - Strictly speaking this is not a bill dealing with child endowment - it is a bill which imposes a tax - but as the Assistant Minister (Senator Leckie) in moving the second reading made passing reference to child endowment it would be unfair, indeed impracticable to debate this bill without making passing references to that subject. I rule that on this bill a general debate on child endowment cannot be permitted. No honorable senator will suffer injustice in that respect, because the Child Endowment Bill will shortly be before the Senate. At the same time, I exercise leniency towards any honorable senator who wishes to make a passing reference to child endowment, because the purpose of the proposed tax is well known.
– Until such time after the scheme is in operation, the effect that child endowment will have on the birth rate must be left to conjecture. What I am concerned about now is the absence of any sound reason why a pay-roll tax should be imposed in order to raise the money necessary to pay for child endowment.
– The Government says that it is the only available means.
– I join issue with the Government on that point. My main concern is what this tax will cost industries which have no means of passing it on. The major industry of Australia, the pastoral industry, will be severely handicapped because it has no means of passing on the tax. Its product is acquired under the wool acquisition scheme. The gold-mining industry, another industry of great importance, is in a similar position because it has no voice in fixing the value of its productGold has to be marketed according to prices fixed by the Government for fine gold. If there is one industry in Australia which should be encouraged to-day it is the gold-mining industry, because it largely provides the means to create the fund, particularly in the United States of America, which is so necessary for the purchase of war equipment. In Western Australia the gold-mining industry employs about 15,000 men and with the tax at2½ per cent. it will have to contribute about £160,000 per annum to the child endowment fund. That amount is in addition to the war gold tax which costs the industry in Western Australia more than £1,000,000 per annum. This proposed tax will affect the gold-mining industry. There are other primary industries, circumscribed in the marketing of their products, which cannot pass on the tax. Statements that employers will recoup themselves for the tax in increased prices for their products are inapplicable to the important indus tries I have mentioned. I should have preferred that the money be raised by the Treasury.
– By taxation which is borne by every one in the Commonwealth and not only by certain employers whose pay-roll exceeds £20 a week. We all know the argument about many wealthy professional men who do not pay wages, and there are one hundred and one reasons why this pay-roll tax should not be imposed. I should have liked the Assistant Minister, instead of giving us a dissertation on the birth-rate, to give some clear reasons why this tax is the only way in which to raise £9,000,000 of the estimated cost of £13,000,000 that will be involved in paying child endowment. Child endowment is a social service, necessary to Australia, which I have advocated for many years, but the cost should be borne by all the people, not by employers only, and especially by those who cannot pass it on. The iron and steel, coal, and other similar industries can bear this impost and pass it on, but the primary industries cannot do so. The equitable way in which to raise this money would bethe way in which the Commonwealth Treasury now finds the money with which to pay for other social services such as invalid and old-age pensions and war and service pensions, which I am glad some of the people of Australia enjoy. Child endowment is no less necessary than are those social services, but for the reasons stated I shall oppose thisbill.
– I commend the Government upon the introduction of this bill, which, I think, is long overdue. I point out to Senator Allan MacDonald that the Government is now expending its revenue at a high rate for war services, which are increasing every week, and within six or twelve months it may be necessary to double the amount now being expended for war purposes. The gap between revenue and expenditure is gradually increasing, and we must take every care that it is not increased to a greater extent than war services render necessary. Child endowment is essentially a social service, and one which will remain, I hope, for all time. Therefore, it should be placed upon a sound financial basis, and, in my opinion, the Government is taking a wise step in asking that the financial basis of the scheme be made sound from the outset. To obtain from Consolidated Revenue £13,000,000, the amount required for the proposed scheme, would mean an increase of approximately 23 per cent, in the income tax or exploring the lower range of incomes to provide the revenue. Under present conditions the method adopted by the Government to raise a portion of this money by a payroll tax until the heavy burdens imposed by the war are considerably lightened is sound. A pay-roll tax of 2$ per cent, will admittedly cause a small increase of the cost of living, and it will fall as a burden on industries which cannot pass on the cost of the tax; but any Government, in introducing a social service of this kind, must regard the matter from a broad point of view, and ascertain who are the persons in the community to whom such a. tax would be least detrimental. I maintain that that is what has been done by the Government in this instance, and that in exempting pay-rolls not exceeding £20 a week, proper assistance will be afforded to a large number of small farmers, individual shopkeepers and one-man businesses in which the owners themselves may not be earning the basic wage. In the pastoral industry in Queensland, the exemption up to £20 a week permits of the employment of three men and a boy without the employer being subject to the tax. Many of the large pastoral companies which pay more than £20 a week in wages will no doubt be able to bear the slight increase of their costs which this tax would involve. The bill recognizes the same humane principle in regard to those who will supply the money for this social service as to those who will benefit from it.
– Like the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), I accept no responsibility for the way the Government proposes to raise the money to finance the child endowment scheme, but I entirely disagree with the method proposed by the Government. This is the greatest piece of social legislation ever introduced in Australia in the Commonwealth sphere, and I maintain that the money required for the scheme could he raised by the use of the national credit through the Commonwealth Bank. Honorable senators opposite may laugh at my suggestion, as they have frequently done in the past, but I repeat that the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, which was presided over by a Supreme Court judge, declared that the Commonwealth Bank could issue interest-free money to the Government. I suggest that the Government should avail itself of national credit in order to finance this scheme.
.- I agree with the principle of child endowment, but disagree with the proposed pay-roll tax. The money for this social service should be obtained from Consolidated Revenue; I regret that there will be no contribution from persons earning high professional incomes and from those whose income is derived from rents and dividends. Many letters have reached me condemning the proposed method of financing the scheme. One from the Retail Grocers’ Association reads -
At ji, meeting of retail grocers representing every State, held in Melbourne on 1st April, the following resolution was passed unanimously : - “Whilst approving of the principle of child endowment this federation representing the whole of the grocers in every State of the Commonwealth, emphatically protests against the collection of the largest portion of the sum requested by a. pay-roll tax on employment, as many individuals and firms with large net incomes would be exempt, and that others often with smaller net incomes would be liable for the tax. Consequently it is considered that the tax is inequitable and undemocratic, and that, in the opinion of this federation, the only equitable method t’finance child endowment is from general revenue.”
The primary producer, too, is very much concerned about this proposal. Captain? of industry and large businesses affected by the ‘proposed pay-roll tax will pass on the amount of the tax, and, not only will the cost of living to the whole community mount up, but production costs to the man on the land will increase. The price of farming implements, wire netting, fencing wire, &c, purchased each year will be higher. The primary producer cannot pass on his costs of production. When the war is brought to a triumphant conclusion, Australia will have to live largely by what it can sell overseas of its primary and secondary products. When the primary producer has to compete in the markets of the world, this passed-on pay-roll tax will make him poorer than he is to-day. An all-round tax equitably distributed throughout the whole community would give to the primary producer a chance to make both ends meet.
– I support the bill because it provides for the raising of a considerable sum of money in order to make provision for a very necessary and long overdue social service. I do not like the method by which the requisite revenue is to be raised, but, in the absence of any suggestion as to a better method, I am quite prepared to support the bill. No opponent of this scheme, either in this chamber or in the House of Representatives, has been able to suggest a better method than that selected by the Government. I am somewhat astonished at the attitude of the Opposition to this bill. It says, in effect, that it favours a child endowment scheme, but that the provision of the necessary money to finance it is entirely the responsibility of the Government. The Opposition is prepared to accept whatever method the Government suggests, whether it be good or bad. That a virile Opposition should adopt such an attitude passes my comprehension.
.- I also have been somewhat astonished at the attitude of the Opposition to this measure, in its curious attempt to escape from a responsibility which it cannot cast aside. A child endowment scheme is to be submitted to this chamber and the responsibility is placed upon the Senate, not upon the Government, of determining whether a pay-roll tax shall be imposed in order to finance the scheme. I am prepared to accept the proposal that the Government has made, and I do so after anxious consideration of all other possibilities. To those who pretend that we shall solve this problem by saying that the cost should be borne out of consolidated revenue, I say that that is no answer at all. When the Child Endowment Bill comes before us, we shall find a provision in it that the endowment shall be provided out of consolidated revenue, but the difficulty at the moment is that there is not sufficient money available from that source to meet existing charges, let alone the new charge of £13,000,000 a year which this scheme will involve. I should not be prepared to support this expenditure unless I knew the basis on which the scheme was to be financed. I do not believe that it could be financed by credit issued by the Commonwealth Bank without serious detriment to the people as a whole. So far as I am aware this is the only proposal yet made to finance the Government’s scheme of child endowment. No critic of the Government’s proposals has suggested any alternative. I shall support this method of financing the scheme. I am of opinion that this measure is based on sound and logical grounds. The problem of child endowment is, undoubtedly, associated with the problem of the basic wage.
– When I said that a few days ago the honorable senator denied it.
– No; indeed, I quoted from the judgments of the Arbitration Court in order to show that that was so. Those judgments made it quite clear that the court found that the present basic wage was sufficient only for a family unit of three. The court said so in so many words. This problem is a social problem which, the community must face. It would be possible theoretically, at any rate, to deal with it as a wage problem. Theoretically, the total amount of wages could be distributed in differential proportions between single and married men. But that would not be practicable because employers would then employ the cheap labour of the single man to the detriment of the married man. This tax, however, is designed to bring about the same result as would be obtained by the payment of wages in differential proportions between single and married men. The Government now says to the employer, “In order to provide a satisfactory wage for a larger family unit than three, you must pay, in addition to your wages, a sum of 2^ per cent, of the amount of your present wages bill “. In other words, there will be added to the wages bill of the employer an amount sufficient to meet the needs of the family unit of more than three in a way which will overcame the social evil to which the Arbitration Court has referred. We cannot got over that difficulty by refusing to introduce child endowment. It is obvious, as I said several days ago, that if the court is obliged to solve this problem it will be forced, perhaps, to make a general increase of the basic wage which would throw the burden on industry, as will he the case with this tax, but by that means the benefit could not be directed into the pockets of the people who are most in need, namely, the larger family unit. This proposal is nothing more than a means to increase the wages of the man with a larger family unit and it ensures that the benefit shall go into his pocket rather than into the pockets of those who do not need it. I support the bill.
– Unlike the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat I am not surprised at the attitude of the Opposition towards this measure. As the result of many years experience of Labour’s tactics no attitude which honorable senators opposite might adopt would surprise me. On this occasion its members are riding to orders ; and I happen to be riding in their company, because I am supporting the bill, not because I like it but for the very good reason that we have no alternative but to support it. The position is that the Government has chosen to embark in company with the Opposition upon this scheme of child endowment - a craft which it will find is not wholly fitted for the stormy constitutional seas it will have to encounter. However, that is the Government’s problem. All parties have expressed their intention not to oppose, during the period of the war, the financial proposals of the Government.- This measure is designed to finance the scheme of child endowment which will be the subject of a later bill. The Government has by legerdemain, or some other means, induced the Opposition to support its proposals ; and the Opposition at the moment is dumb almost to a man. On this occasion the vociferous eloquence of the
Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is absent. He rose in his place very humbly, and bowed his support to the measure; and the curtain will be rung down upon a scene of peace, although we are now attempting to do something which this Parliament has found itself quite incapable of doing for the last forty years. Through an amalgamation between the Government and the Opposition we are going to bring about the Elysium. I hesitate to think of what will happen should those who now anticipate benefits from the scheme ultimately be deceived. This measure is only ancillary to a greater measure; it is a financial measure. But for the fact that I am familiar with the Opposition’s tactics in certain circumstances, I should be amazed that it has not offered more criticism of the Government’s proposal. I recall, for instance, an occasion when democracy was being violated by the passage of an improper agreement involving Australian Consolidated Industries. Because the Opposition ‘ refused to give to this Parliament an opportunity to review that agreement, it still remains on the statute-book in an objectionable form. Now, members of the Opposition sit so silently in their places that I can only feel suspicious. My portly friend on my right, whose beaming honesty is familiar to all of us, can hardly be suspected of being a party to anything helpful to the “ Nats “ and those whom he has described in language which would not bear repetition in this chamber. To-day, he remains silent. I cannot induce one honorable senator opposite to say a word on this proposal. Obviously, the whole thing is cut and dried. The Government has said that this is the only way to finance the scheme. I certainly shall not kick against its decision. I shall vote for the measure, but without prejudice to the consequences which may ensue to the Government. One feature to which I direct the attention of the Assistant Minister, whom I know to be commercially-minded, is the trend of trade in this country during the last few years. I do not know how this proposal will affect businesses with large turnovers as against smaller businesses of the kind instanced by Senator Brand. During recent years we have witnessed the growth of businesses of huge dimensions, which have been able to reduce costs to .the consumer to a minimum. I venture to suggest that under this proposal the small man will be enabled to cut into those larger businesses. That is at least one criticism that can be levelled against the bill. However, for the reasons I have already stated, I support the measure.
– vn reply - Very little has been said in this debate which calls for a reply from me. I am not surprised that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) disclaimed any responsibility for this method of financing the child endowment scheme. The Government is quite willing to accept that responsibility ; provided it is given the credit for child endowment, it should be prepared to take all the blame in respect of financing the scheme. Senator A. J. McLachlan suggested that one of its weaknesses was that it might give to, say, the small grocer an advantage over- the big business man. If it does so, I thank God. The small grocer will not be subject to this tax, and, at any time, I should sooner give encouragement to him than to the big man. The objection was also raised that the primary producer would be severely hit by this proposal, because he is unable to pass on a pay-roll tax. I point out that at least 90 per cent., if not more, of the primary producers will not pay this tax. Another complaint was that the pay-roll tax would adversely affect the gold-mining industry. When we remember that before the war the price of gold was £4 an ounce, whereas it i3 now £11 an ounce, surely the addition of 6d. an ounce to the cost of recovering gold will not adversely affect that industry. I thank honorable senators generally for the manner in which they received this bill. I hope that they will allow it, together with cognate measures to be introduced later, to be passed as quickly as possible, because the Government desires to inaugurate this scheme by the 1st July.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Imposition of pay-roll tax).
.- Will the Assistant Minister (Senator Leckie) state where the exemption of £1,040 per annum is provided for. This clause merely provides for the imposition of a tax at the rate of £2 10s. per cent.
– That is provided for in the machinery bill which I shall introduce shortly.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Leckie) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Government’s proposals to pay family allowances in respect of children, and to provide for the greater part of the necessary finance by means of a tax on pay-rolls, are well known to honorable senators. This bill, which is an essential part of that scheme, is to define the scope of the proposed tax on pay-rolls and to provide the machinery for its administration. At this stage it is not necessary for me to justify the imposition of such a tax. My immediate concern is to make clear to honorable senators the proposed incidence of the tax and the conditions under which it will be levied and collected. The scheme is simple. It is a tax on the wages paid, and is payable by employers. Every employer is entitled to an exemption at the rate of £20 a week. The tax is payable monthly, and employers must make monthly returns to the commissioner. Every employer liable to pay this tax must register. The tax will be levied and paid on all wages paid or payable by any employer in respect of any period occurring after the 30th June, 1941. The tax is imposed under clause 12, honorable senators will notice that that clause refers to all wages. The term “wages” is denned in sub-clause 1 of clause 3 where the term “ employer “ is also defined. These two definitions will make it quite clear that all classes of employers will be liable for payment, of the tax in respect of all kinds of wages. It will be noticed that wages paid in respect of domestic service are not excepted from the general liability. As no distinction is ‘ made between the different kinds of wages, for the purpose of this legislation, it will be necessary for employers to add domestic wages, for instance, to business wages. The Government, however, proposes that the burden of the tax shall fall where it can be most easily borne, and, as I have said, has made provision in clause 14 foi1 a general exemption at the rate of £20 a week. This is intended to relieve the small employer from payment of the tax, and will have the effect of excluding from the taxable field, practically the whole of the pay-rolls for domestic service. I may state ‘ that if the exemption were not allowed to all employers, pay-rolls just above the exempted amount would be placed at a very serious disadvantage as compared with pay-rolls just below it. A few pounds would make all the difference between paying a considerable amount of tax and paying none at all. As it is, the tax on a pay-roll just above the exempted amount will be extremely light. The small employer is still further protected by the provisions of clause 16. Obviously, the pay-roll of any given employer is likely to fluctuate during the year. Sometimes it will be more than £20, and sometimes it will be less. Whenever it is more than £20 he will be liable to pay the tax. It may happen, therefore, in a good many instances that, at the end of the year, the employer will be found to have paid some tax although his pay-roll for the year was, on the average, less than £20 a week. As it is not intended that such pay-rolls shall feel the weight of the tax, provision has been made for the commissioner to refund or rebate the tax where, at the end of the financial year, it is found that the total of wages paid by an employer was £1,040 a year or less. It is desirable, however, that employers for part of a year only, should not gain an advantage under that provision over those who have been employers during the whole of the year. The amount- of £1,040 will therefore be reduced in the case of those who are employers for part of the year only. The amount allowable will vary accord-: ing to the time during which wages have been paid. Still another class of employer has been very sympathetically provided for. Because of the nature of some trades or businesses, the wages bill so fluctuates with different periods of the year, that almost the whole of the wages for the year are paid within a very short period. It is thus possible for an employer to take over such a business, at such a time that the wages bill for the year must be paid after he has taken over, or he may relinquish the business after having paid the greater part of the wages for that year. In either case, if the employer can satisfy the commissioner that his pay-roll for the year would not have amounted to £1,040 had he been in business during the whole of the year, he will be allowed the full benefit of the exemption of £1,040. Honorable senators will agree, I think, that the measure has been devised with the utmost consideration for the taxpayer. The specifically exempted classes of employers which ar« few are specified in clause 15. The exemption granted to diplomatic, consular and other representatives of other governments, and to certain trade representatives does not extend to wages paid by them in the course of any activities not connected with their official positions. The complete exemption of religious or public benevolent institutions and public hospitals is consistent with the provisions of other taxation acts, and is in accord with the treatment of those institutions under the New South Wales Act. As I have already stated, every employer who is liable to pay the tax will be required to register as an employer for the purposes of this legislation. A similar system of registration is already in operation under the Sales Tax Acts and has substantial advantages from the administrative point of view. Returns will be required monthly and the tax must be paid within the time allowed for lodgment of the return. . That is to say, the taxpayer will assess his own tax as he does for sales tax, and the Commissioner will provide the necessary check on his calculations by inspection and otherwise. Monthly returns have been adopted, not only because they make it easier for the department to collect the tax, but also because they make it easier for the employer to pay it. Registered employers will benefit also by the provisions mentioned in clause 19. Under clause 17 employers who pay or who are liable to pay wages at the rate of £20 a week must register, and, under clause 18, furnish monthly returns. The payment of wages at the rate of £20 a week, even if only for one short period in the year thus makes an employer liable for registration and the lodgment of returns so long as he continues to be an employer. However, in many cases, such an arrangement would be both irksome to the taxpayer and unprofitable to the department. It has been provided, therefore, that where the commissioner is of the opinion that no tax will be payable ‘by an employer or, if paid, will be refunded when the annual adjustment is made, he may exempt the taxpayer from furnishing monthly returns. In such instances, he may require the employer to furnish an annual return of wages paid, which will enable him to satisfy himself that the exemption was properly allowable. Honorable senators will notice that the definition of “ company” as used in the bill includes partnerships. Under (the bill a partnership will be an employer, and will be liable to pav tax. The provision serves two purposes : It simplifies the machinery provisions of the bill, and it ensures that a member of a partnership shall not be required to aggregate his share of the partnership pay-roll with any separate pay-roll for which he may be responsible. The provisions with which I have dealt contain the substance of the new scheme of taxation. The remaining provisions provide the machinery for administering the law and contain no departures from precedents established in other taxation measures. The department will be given all necessary powers to enable it to administer the law and the rights of the taxpayer will be preserved. The bill is an indication of the Government’s determination to finance its scheme of family endowment, and of its solicitude for the taxpayers. It has been necessary for pro- pose new taxation, but under this bill the taxpayer will be treated as generously as the circumstances permit.
Sitting suspended from 6. IS la 8 p.m.
– The suspension of the sitting for dinner interrupted the beginning and end of my speech. This bill is merely complementary to the one that preceded it and the Opposition has no objection to it.
– Clause 18 requires employers to make to the Commissioner of Taxation within seven days after the close of each month a return of all wages paid or payable by them in respect of that month. Representations have ‘been made to me from various sources that the obligation to make monthly returns will impose a burden on industry and will increase the rising cost of carrying on industry. The simplification of returns that employers are required to make to government departments is necessary and it is suggested that in the case of the pay-roll tax returns should be made quarterly or half yearly. I suggest that the Government should give favorable consideration to my proposal.
– I intended to raise two questions, but Senator Cooper has mentioned one of them. A number of transactions such as shearing contracts take place between graziers and wool companies. The relationship between these parties is entirely contractural. The grazier provides accommodation for the company’s shearers and pays to the company a rate according to the class of sheep shorn. As the company employs the shearers it will probably pay tax on the wages paid to them, but will tax bc collected also on grazier’s payments? In other words: I want to know whether there will be double taxation? Possibly the Assistant Minister in charge of the bill will answer my question when the bill is in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
– It appears to me that no provision has been made in the bill to meet the case that I outlined on the second reading of the bill. The question is: Who is to pay the tax in a case of the kind mentioned, or will there be a double tax? I should like to learn whether there is any provision in the bill eliminating double taxation?
– The question raised by Senator McLachlan regarding shearing contracts is covered by the definition of “ wages “, which states - “ Wages “ means any wages, salary, commission, bonuses or allowances paid or payable (whether at piece work rates or otherwise and whether paid or payable in cash or in kind) to any employee as such and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes -
If the employer pays money direct to the shearers, which includes their keep, the employer will come under theterms of the bill provided the total sum paid in wages is more than £1,040 a year. If the employer pays for the shearing through a contractor and supplies the contractor’s shearers with sustenance he will have to regard sustenance as wages. The contractor will pay tax on the wages actually paid. Senator A. J. McLachlan need have no fear that there will be duplication of taxation. I realize that peculiar cases will arise in the operation of the measure, but I think that honorable senators can rest assured that the regulations made under the act will remove any doubt.
– Take the case where a contractor enters into a contract with a grazier to shear his sheep and bale the wool and the grazier supplies quarters for the shearers. Suppose the grazier’s expenses for the year, not including shearing, are £900, but shearing costs him £500, making a total of £1,400. Would the sum of £500 be deducted from the annual pay-roll of the grazier and the tax paid on the amount by the contractor?
– That particular class of contract would not come within the terms of the measure unless prescribed by regulation.
– I direct attention to the provision that “ wages “ means -
Any wages, salary, commission, ‘bonuses or allowances paid or payable (whether at piecework rates or otherwise and whether paid or payable in cash or in kind) to any employee as such.
Following those words different classes of payments are set forth. It seems to me that the definition is sufficiently wide to cover a contractual relationship, and that in the case cited the contracting company will have to pay tax on its pay-roll because it employs shearers practically all the year round. Then the tax will be levied on the grazier because piecework is included in the definition. Although the shearing might be described as piece-work the whole relationship is contractual because the contracting company supplies the labour and materials necessary and the grazier contracts to pay for the accommodation of the shearers. All that the grazier does is to facilitate the contracting company’s work. I want to know whether there is any provision in the hill for relief in a case of that kind. The regulation making power set forth in the bill does not appear to be sufficiently wide to give relief in such cases.
– It was suggested in another debate that employers might evade payment of the pay-roll tax by employing labour at piece-work rates. The definition of wages has been drafted to prevent such evasion. In actual practice the provision relating to piece-work will apply only to a small number of persons. Only those graziers whose total pay-roll in a year exceeds £1,040 will be liable to pay the pay-roll tax. If a grazier pays £1,500 in wages in a year he will be taxed on the amount of £460. I am advised that no duplication of taxation such as Senator A. J. McLachlan suggests will occur. I assure him that the regulations made under the act will prevent duplication of taxation.
– The Assistant Minister (Senator Leckie) suggested that the question raised by me will affect only a small number of employers. Although he is well instructed, apparently he does not grasp the trend of business in primary industries. I think that in Queensland most of the canecutting is done by contract. The canegrower surely will not have to pay tax on wages on which the tax has already been paid by the cutting company. Wages are defined in the bill and no regulation made under the act can amend the definition.
.- Senator A. J. McLachlan has apparently not studied paragraph (a) of the definition of wages. It provides that wages include -
Any payment made under any prescribed classes of contracts to the extent to which that payment is attributable to labour.
Therefore, unless a particular class of contract is prescribed the pay-roll tax will not apply to the wages paid. The safeguard is that the class of contract will have to be prescribed before the payroll tax will apply to it. Therefore there will ;be no fear of double taxation.
– Will a man whose business wage bill amounts to £18 10s. a week be liable to pay the tax if amounts which he pays for domestic help or a nurse to mind his children bring his total outlay of wages to more than £20 a week?
– Ye3, but the tax would be payable only on the amount in excess of £1,040 per annum.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Returns).
– I understood that an undertaking was given by the Government in the House of Representatives that this clause would be perused with a viewto ascertaining the possibility of meeting requests made in that chamber and repeated in the Senate to-day by Senator Cooper that returns should be made quarterly instead of monthly. The clause as it now stands will be another burden on an already overburdened people. It will affect particularly primary producers, many of whom experience great difficulty iu compiling returns.
– Assistant Minister) [S.18]. - This matter was raised in the House of Representatives, but the Government could not accept the claim that returns should be quarterly instead of monthly on application. The Commissioner of Taxation has the power in certain circumstances to issue a certificate to enable returns to be made annually instead of monthly. At any rate, I cannot see the force of the argument that monthly returns would be a burden on employers. In 95 per cent, of cases, wages are paid weekly. When entries on wage sheets are transferred to ledger forms, it would not be difficult to duplicate those entries in order to fulfil the requirements of the law. Returns under the sales tax legislation, which are much more complicated documents than are the returns provided for in this legislation, have to be made monthly.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 19 to 71 agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third’ time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Leckie) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill provides for an amendment of the Raw Cotton Bounty Act of 1940 which has become necessary because of serious disturbances in world raw cotton markets, and their effect on the incomes of producers of raw cotton in Queensland. The bill will ensure an average net return to producers in respect of the 1941 and 1942 crops of 12£d. per lb. of raw cotton after taking into account their profits from oil and cattle fodder made from cotton seed. This amount is equivalent to 4.3d. per lb. of seed cotton for cotton-growers which Parliament and the Government intended, when the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1940 was enacted.
The following review of changed circumstances overseas will, it is hoped, make it clear to honorable senators that immediate action is essential to protect the position of cotton-growers. For six years, the Commonwealth’s policy has been to allow cotton spinners to obtain Australian or foreign raw cotton at Australian import parity, duty-free prices. In order that Australian cotton-growers should receive remunerative returns, they have been paid, through the Queensland Cotton Board as the producer of raw cotton, rates of bounty which fluctuate exactly in accordance with variations in the spot price of American middling raw cotton at Liverpool at the end of each week of the Queensland production. The present basic bounty is 4$d. per lb. on a basic Liverpool price of 6d. per lb. As the actual Liverpool price is more or less than 6d., the actual bounty is that much less or more than 4$d., with a maximum bounty of 5^-d. per lb. Until some time after the war started this system, worked to the complete satisfaction of cotton-growers and spinners in Australia because the normal relationship between the Liverpool price and cotton values in other world markets was always maintained. .For example, the Liverpool price averaged about -Jd. per lb. more than American prices. In the Raw Cotton Bounty Act of 1940 the former basic bounty was increased from 4Jd. to 4$d. per lb., the extra £d. being partly given to prevent the then slightly abnormal excess of the Liverpool price over American prices from injuring our cotton producers’ returns.
Recent announcements in the press disclose that the Liverpool Cotton Exchange will cease to exist as from the 31st March, 1941. It has been expected for some time that the Liverpool Cotton Exchange would close and this eventuality is provided for in the present act. Had the disturbance of the market, with its effect on the Liverpool price, been the only factor affecting the bounty, the closing of the Liverpool Exchange and the consequent reliance on the New York Cotton Exchange for the basis of the bounty payments would not have rendered this amendment necessary. A more serious position has, however, developed owing to extreme price-cutting by Brazil and market weaknesses arising from the record excess carry-over of 15,000,000 bales of the United States of America. This carry-over has been financed by the
Government of the United States of America at more than present market values.
The present price in New York is approximately 2d. per lb. sterling less than the Liverpool price, with a strong tendency to decrease. In view of the fact that the price of Brazilian cotton is approximately 20 per cent, lower than American cotton, it will form the basis for determining the Australian import parity price. Consequently the price received by the growers will be so low that their returns will not yield them a profit; hence the necessity for the provision in the bill which will ensure them a return of 12$d. per lb. of raw cotton. It will be seen that the effect of present world prices will be to reduce the net return to Queensland growers on their seed cotton below the 4.3d. per lb. expected by Parliament when the 1940 act was passed ; how much below will be dependent upon the influence of the excess American carry-over of cotton and the surplus Brazilian cotton available and its influence on an already depressed market-
Australia’s raw cotton position is seriously weak. Our consumption is now over 70,000 bales per annum, but Queensland’s crop this year is expected to be only 15,000 bales. Maintenance of the 15,000 bales production for 1941 requires immediate action to ensure the reasonable net return of 4.3d. per lb. of seed cotton. Such a. return, guaranteed in advance, will be vital if our production for 1942 is to expand greatly, as is essential for our fighting service requirements alone, should war break out in the Pacific.
The bill will enable the Queensland Cotton Board to receive bounty for each week’s production on a. basis to be determined by the Minister, as provided for in the present act. during each wenk; then, shortly after the end of the season, the Cotton Board will receive an interim payment in a lump sum, bringing the net return for all cotton as close as possible to 32-Jd. per lb. Later, when the exact figures are available, the final payment of bounty necessary to ensure a net return of 12-Jd. per lb. will be known and will be paid.
In an attempt to reduce the possible extra bounty cost of £50,000 under this bill, the Minister proposes to arrange that all spinners shall promptly confer with the Queensland Cotton Board with the object of buying the 1941 Queensland crop at more than present import parity prices, and thus reduce the Commonwealth’s bounty liability by the total value of such increase. Unless some such agreement is made, the extra bounty cost for the anticipated 1941 crop will be approximately £50,000.
I believe that the Senate will appreciate the seriousness of the unexpected war-time emergency which now confronts our cotton-growers, and will therefore cordially support this bill, which will relieve the situation to the satisfaction of the industry. The necessity for the measure has been brought about by circumstances over which we have no control, and I urge honorable senators to give the bill a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 26th March (vide page 233), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a simple measure, and it scarcely calls for comment. The proposal is to omit from section 29b of the Crimes Act 1914-1937 which relates to false representation, the words “either verbally or in writing” and to insert in their stead the words “ in any manner whatsoever “. In times like these such a provision is exceedingly wise and necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 27th March (vide page 329) on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I offer no objection to the passage of the bill. Its object is to simplify the administration of acts, and it also prescribes the maximum pecuniary penalties which a court may impose on a corporation where the only penalty prescribed by the act is one of imprisonment. The bill also clarifies the powers regarding the making of regulations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 27th March (vide page 330) on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is somewhat similar in effect to that which the Senate has just passed, and the Opposition will not oppose it. Extensive fraud is practised in every war, and the present war is no exception in that regard. The Opposition considers that fraud should be punished when it is discovered, and, particularly, in time of war. Of course, there are different kinds of fraud, and this bill recognizes that fact.Intentional and deliberate fraud is fairly easily discoverable. Another kind of fraud is that which arises from failure of men entrusted with power in connexion with the manufacture and distribution of goods and in the provision of services to exercise proper oversight.
– That is not necessarily fraud at all.
– Negligence is not fraud, but, if it results in fraud, it should be punishable when discovered. The Opposition does not oppose the bill, because it believes that whether fraud is deliberate, or merely arises from carelessness, it should be punished. It recognizes that there is a danger in making the provisions of the bill retrospective. An amendment was submitted in the House of Representatives in that regard, but effect was not given to it. The only difficulty that could arise in connexion withretrospectivity is that administrative power might be abused. If it is, it will be the responsibility of the Government in control of the administration of the measure when the abuse occurs. The Opposition is so determined that fraud shall be punished, particularly when the nation is in the grip of war, that it will not quibble over the terms of this bill.
– <I support the bill and commend the Government for having introduced it. I should like to know whether the provision relating to “ any die, device, seal or stamp “ applies to the recent allegations about faulty marking of boots supplied to the Defence Forces, and also to allegations with regard to the supply of bread and other materials to the Department of the Army.
– None of us condones fraud ; all that can bc done to prevent fraud should be done. However, the conditions under which the materials necessary for military purposes are produced more or less invite fraud. So long as contractors compete against one another, and prices are cut to the bone, and sonic gain is to be made by committing fraud, we shall always have fraud. This bill deals with effects rather than with causes. If the Government, for instance, were manufacturing its requirements of boots, clothing and other articles, the intensive competition which now takes place among contractors would disappear, and the causes of fraud would be lessened. In addition, by making this legislation retrospective we say, in effect, that what is a crime to-day was not a crime, say, two or three months, or a year. ago. That is very dangerous. All authorities that have examined the matter as closely and critically as possible, ‘believe that the more severely the law deals specifically with effect, without dealing with causes, the position is not improved.
– That involves a reconstruction of human beings rather than of the law.
– Not necessarily; but it involves a change of the conditions under which human beings work. The more congenial conditions are made the more favorable will be the reaction, but conditions similar to those which now govern tenders for the supply of materials to the Government, under which a good deal is to be gained by the perpetration of fraud, with a chance of escaping detection, invite fraud. If the Government were manufacturing its own requirements under conditions more or less approximating those under which it manufactures munitions, legislation of this kind would not be necessary. At any rate, this kind of legislation is dangerous, and places a weapon in the hands of people who may be tempted to abuse it. The provisions of this bill are to be made retrospective to September, 1939. No one can f oresee just how long the war will last. We should take a long view of the position and organize our means of production of military requirements under conditions that will make the perpetration of fraud practically impossible. One of the worst features of legislation of this kind is that usually the rich man who commits fraud, and can afford to brief able lawyers, has a much better chance of escaping the consequences of his crime than a poor, unfortunate individual who does not possess a penny. Our gaol population does not include many rich men who have committed fraud, or writers of lying advertisements which practically constitute fraud ; it consists of poor unfortunate victims who are not in a position to protect themselves. Very often Parliament prepares the crime, and punishes the victim. That was done in 1932, when Parliament enacted legislation which caused wide-spread poverty almost overnight. The result was that fraud and crime increased almost simultaneously, and unfortunate victims were sent to gaol in hundreds, and, possibly, in thousands. Then, when it was discovered that the policy of Parliament made a position which was already bad infinitely worse, that policy, was changed, and the number of cases of fraud and crimes of all sorts decreased. Legislation of this kind will not lessen the number of frauds, unless the Government pays particular attention to the causes of fraud, and assumes control of those industries and services which are so essential to the prosecution of our war effort.
– The retrospectivity of legislation appears in a somewhat lurid light in this measure, because it is rarely, if ever, that legislation of a criminal character is made retrospective. Section 73c of the principal act, which it is proposed to amend by clause 3 of the bill, is as follows: -
Any contractor, purveyor or other person, and any employee of a contractor, purveyor or other person, who fraudulently supplies to the Commonwealth or any officer of the Commonwealth for use by the defence force -
Any officer of the Commonwealth who fraudulently receives for use by the defence force any article of food, or any material, equipment, orbeast of draught or burden supplied in contravention of this section, shall be guilty of an offence.
The essence of the offence is that the offender acted fraudulently. Under this legislation we propose to throw the burden of proof upon the accused, and that involves the alteration of a vital principle of the British criminal code. I suppose that very good reason exists for making this legislation retrospective to the 3rd September, 1939. In addition, however, section 73c of the principal act is to be amended by omitting the word “ fraudulently “. That means that on any person who supplies goods to the Government which should later turn out to be inferior, or of less quantity than that specified in the contract, will rest the burden of proving his innocence. He must prove that he had no fraudulent intent and that he did not know that the articles were inferior, or of less quantity than that specified in the contract.
– Any provision less than that would allow an offender to escape.
– But we need to have our eyes open when we agree to this amendment, because we shall thereby apply a principle which although quite common in French law, is new to British jurisprudence. As I have said, a good reason may exist for the amendment. The point I emphasize is that we are now applying the retrospectivity provision only to offences under the Defence Act. Apparently, it is because the Governmenthas found it diffi cult to prove fraud in respect of the supply of material to it, that it now proposes to adopt this new principle. However, I repeat that in agreeing to the bill we should do so with our eyes open. We should regard this amendment as an exceptional provision in order to meet particular cases. In throwing upon some people, such as employees and managers who may, perhaps, be unaware of the existence of collusion between the person delivering the goods and the person receiving them, this provision may operate with great harshness. It is pretty tough; however, we are living in tough days, and I suppose that it is necessary.
– in reply - I appreciate the remarks of our legal friend, Senator A. J. McLachlan, but I assure the Senate that the Government has given the points raised by the honorable senator very serious consideration. The Government realizes the drastic nature of the provisions of the bill, but, as Senator A.J. McLachlan said, we are at war, and we are living in difficult times. The Government is not concerned with individuals, but merely desires to protect itself against fraudulent acts which may have been committed since the outbreak of war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from9.4 to 9.55 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Leckie) read a first time.
Senator LECKIE (Victoria - Assistant
Minister) [9.56]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It would be idle for me to deny thatI value the privilege of being the sponsor of a measure of such outstanding importance as this is in the social life of the people of Australia. It will not be necessary for me to persuade . honorable senators to believe that a bill such as this is necessary. Every one seems to be in agreement that some system of family endowment is necessary for the future well-being of the nation, and the only opposition I have heard is not to an endowment scheme, but to the manner of financing it. The passing of this measure is an example of how democracy works. It may work slowly, but it works safely, surely and in the end, justly. It sometimes requires a jolt to draw attention to the fact that a reform, that every one in his heart realizes is due, should be immediately crystalized into legislative action. Such a jolt was administered by the Arbitration Court when it said plainly that a family unit of more than three, on the basic wage, suffers hardship, The Government took immediate action and it is apparent, I think, that honorable senators and the people whom they represent are in accord in wishing success to the measure. Great national results may not be apparent at first, but, I believe that the immediate results of this measure will be an improvement in the comfort and well-being of the children of Australia, with its inevitable consequence of improving the health and increasing the stamina of our people. It is not advisable then for me to dwell on the desirableness of this measure. I have therefore only to explain briefly the details of the bill which has been carefully considered and carefully drafted. in the most recent judgment of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, when it deferred for six months a decision on the application before it, the view was expressed by the chief judge that, considered on the basis of needs only, the present basic wage was adequate for a family unit of three, but offered only a meagre existence for a family unit of four. When the unit got beyond four, hardship was often experienced. The chief judge added that during a portion of the term of a low-wage employee, a married man frequently had a family of more than two dependent children. He claimed that a more logical system would be to grade the basic wage according to family responsibilities. A re-apportion- men t of the national income sufficient to increa.se the wages of men and women with more than one dependent child would, he believed, be of advantage to the Commonwealth. The State courts have differed in their decisions as to the family units for which they prescribe a wage. Queensland and South Australia have adopted a family unit of five, and Western Australia a family unit of four ; New South Wales dealt with a family unit of three until October, 1937, when it followed the Commonwealth court’s basic wage. It can be inferred quite reasonably from the judgments of the Commonwealth court during the last decade that the “ needs “ conception of the basic wage has something of the quality of a “ will-o’-the-wisp “. Common sense supports that contention. Even if we could choose an average family unit, it would not reflect the actual situation of the employee during the whole of his working life. It would be too large at the beginning and at the end of his working life, when his domestic responsibilities would be comparatively light, and too small, when his domestic responsibilities would reach their peak.
I now turn to a consideration of the salient features of the bill itself. The essential provision is that endowment at the rate of 5s. a week shall be paid for all children under the age of sixteen years, in excess of one child in each family. The Government has given a great deal of consideration to the provision of endowment in respect of the first child. Whilst it approached the question sympathetically, it has decided that payment in respect of the first child is- not warranted. On the Commonwealth Court’s own recent finding, the present basic wage is adequate for a man, wife and one child. Since most married people have at least one dependent child - at the census of 1933 this applied to 60 per cent, of married males - the presence of one child in the household does not put it at a serious disadvantage compared with the living standards of its neighbours. Studies of malnutrition and ill health among children, both in Australia and abroad, show that these appear seriously only in large families and that first, children are clearly in a superior position. The inclusion of first children in the benefit would raise the cost of the endowment in Australia by more than ‘80 per cent. That is, it would increase the amount of payment at present proposed, namely, £13,000,000 by another £11,000,000. Current expenditure of this type should obviously not be made from loan sources, and the raising of a further £11,000,000 from taxation, on top of that made inevitable by war requirements, would augment difficulties already being experienced. It must be evident to all honorable senators that this is a breadandbutter provision. We do not borrow in order to buy the ordinary breadandbutter things of life. We borrow only for such things as building materials. I cannot conceive of any one saying that endowment should be paid out of borrowed money or an extension of credit.
Existing schemes elsewhere exclude the first child and sometimes more children from benefit. The New South Wales scheme pays 5s. a week to dependent children in excess of one in certain lowwage families. The New Zealand social security legislation gives a family benefit of 4s. per week to all dependent children in excess of two. That, I understand, was also the extent of the legislation recommended in the minority report of the Royal Commission on Child Endowment in 1928. The 1940 report of the Victorian select committee proposed that the payment should begin at 4s. a week for the fourth child. The many European schemes existing before the present war either did not endow the first child or else paid for it at a lower rate. This bill provides for payment of all dependent children in excess of one, irrespective of the income or occupation of their parents. It has been suggested in some quarters that endowment should be given only to children of wage and salary earners, but there are many other people with low incomes, such as small farmers and independent tradesmen, whose exclusion would be unjust and invidious. An income limitation also involves a regular means test which, in addition to being embarrassing and irritating, is expensive to administer. The saving which would be effected by imposing an income limit is not nearly so considerable as most honorable members would imagine, and as it is proposed, in view of the universal grant of endowment, to abolish the prevailing income tax deductions in respect of each child after the first, those taxpayers on the larger incomes will be called upon to make a direct contribution to the financing of the schemes. Under a system based on limitation of income, the payment of endowment for the current year must necessarily be based on the parents’ income of the previous year, and this frequently involves anomalies that defeat the object of the endowment. There are now about 1,830,000 children under sixteen in Australia, and it is estimated that 1,000,000 are dependent children in excess of one child in each family, and therefore eligible for endowment. Payment on account of each of these at the rate of 5s. a week, or £13 a year, would amount to £13,000,000.
It is proposed that the cost of child endowment be financed as follows: - A tax on all pay-rolls at the rate of 2£ per cent, on amounts in excess of £20 a week, or an annual amount of £1,040. It is expected that £9,000,000 per annum will be raised in this way. Something more than £2,000,000 will come from the abolition of the income tax deductions for each child after the first, and it is proposed that the balance will be financed from Consolidated Revenue. The question of finance will be dealt with fully in a separate measure, and I do not propose to discuss it in detail at this stage. The New South Wales Government is at present spending £1,300,000 a year on its own scheme, and has announced that this will be withdrawn when the Commonwealth Government scheme comes into operation. We have adopted the principle that endowment is to be paid to each dependent child after the first. The effect of this will be to add endowment in respect of certain children who might strictly be said to be already covered by some form of endowment. For example, allowances are paid in respect of children of war pensioners and of present members of the fighting forces. As an illustration, a private in the Australian Imperial Force with four children receives a weekly allowance of 10s. 6d. for each child. The Government has taken the view that the country would not desire the children of war pensioners or of members of the fighting forces to be excluded from the operation of an additional general benefit of this kind. Consequently, it proposes that such children shall be eligible for the additional endowment.
Endowment will be paid also in respect of children residing in private charitable institutions and children boarded out by the States. Recognizing that the State governments themselves have certain social responsibilities, the Government does not propose to pay endowment to children in institutions which are substantially supported by the States. The general scheme of endowment will relieve the States of some expenditure on persons who would otherwise require relief. There is less need, therefore, to subsidize the work that their child welfare departments have long undertaken. Payment will be made for all children maintained by private charitable institutions. In such instances there will be no exemption of the first child. British subjects coming from overseas will be able to claim endowment after they have been in Australia for twelve months, this period being generally taken as the statistical distinguishing mark of a non-tourist. Endowment will be payable to children born in Australia of alien fathers, because such children are British subjects. Endowment will also be payable for the same reason to children not born in Australia from the time that their father becomes naturalized. It is proposed to pay endowment to the children of aborigines and half-castes, where it is shown that they are living under conditions .comparable with white Australians.
The Commonwealth Public Service scheme, which has been in operation since 1920, is financed by a theoretical fund provided by deduction from the basic wage of all adult officers. Endowment under the new scheme will, therefore, be payable to public servants, and also to those receiving endowment under private schemes. It will be a matter for the Public Service unions and those participating in private schemes to determine for themselves’ the future of their present arrangements.
Another liberal feature of the Government’s proposals is the provision for endowment to continue until the age of sixteen years. The New South Wales scheme, like most schemes established some time ago, provides for endowment only until the fourteenth birthday. It will be generally agreed that under our present educational systems, many children are entering upon the period of greatest expense to their parents at about that age. All State governments have been considering raising the schoolleaving age from fourteen to- fifteen years, and we can assume that this is a likely post-war development. The census records and the experience of the Taxation Commissioner reveal that relatively few children under sixteen years . of age earn as much as 10s. a week. Moreover, if children are forced to begin earning early, it is generally because of poverty in the family, ana a continuance of endowment to the age of sixteen will be of particular value in these cases. The number of children to be provided for by the present bill would be reduced by 7 per cent, if payment ceased at fifteen and by 14 per cent, if payment ceased at fourteen.
The proposals provide that the claim of a parent or guardian for endowment should -be based on actual responsibility for maintenance and not on natural relationship. Thus adopted and illegitimate children, would be claimed for, if otherwise eligible, by those maintaining them. Natural relationship would not give the right to claim, if it did not involve maintenance. This policy is in accordance with the principle that endowment is being introduced for the benefit of the child. Except in special cases, endowment will be paid to the woman in direct charge of the children, who will usually be the mother.
We are not attempting to cover in the bill the multitude of varying circumstances -which may arise - for example, the case of n family of five in which two of the children are living with the father, the mother is living in another State and perhaps one or two children are living with a grandparent. It is impossible to provide in the bill for cases of that sort, lt is proposed to deal with cases such as that by regulations which will be prepared and submitted for the consideration of the Parliament before the scheme comes into operation. The Commissioner will have discretion to pay endowment to the father or guardian or any other selected person. This “will help to distinguish the endowment from normal income and it will place it directly in the hands of the one accustomed to laying out money for the children. The Government’s policy in this connexion contains no reflection on the Australian father, hut experience of administration with other endowment schemes, notably in New South Wales and New Zealand, aud on the continent of Europe, shows that the best return is obtained from endowment when it is expended by the mother.
Endowment will not be regarded as income for taxation purposes, and it is expected that the States will follow the Commonwealth’s practice in this regard. This Parliament nas already accepted on behalf of the people of Australia the country’s obligations to the aged and infirm and it has generously intercepted our responsibility to those members of its fighting forces who have suffered in the country’s service. The Parliament is now invited to inaugurate another major reform which itself, by making specific provision for the health and well-being of Australia of the future, will stand as a landmark along the road of social progress.
We are desirous that the benefits promised under this scheme shall be given promptly. We are proceeding with the necessary administrative preparations with a view to having the scheme in operation as from the 1st July of this year. We can achieve that result if honorable senators assist the passage of the necessary legislation. This is the most important bill I have ever had the privilege to present. It will have far-reaching consequences, and the people of Australia, after experiencing its benefits, will say that this Parliament has done well by passing it. I ask the Senate to give it a speedy passage.
– Before debating the bill itself, I have something to say about the second-reading speech delivered by the Assistant Minister (Senator Leckie), which I was very interested to hear. Early in the speech, the Assistant Minister said -
It sometimes requires a jolt to draw attention to the fact that a reform that we all in our hearts realize is due should be immediately crystallized into legislative action. Such a jolt was administered by the Arbitration Court when it said plainly that a family unit of more than three on the basic wage was suffering hardship.
I am surprised that it took that jolt to awaken the Government to its responsibilities to the children of this country. Without any intention of being ungracious, I remind the Assistant Minister and the Government that a decent rise of the basic wage would he a far greater jolt to the people who are called upon to pay for child endowment. That, in my opinion, explains the presence of this bill in this chamber. Either a rise of the basic wage or child endowment had to come. The Government has made a virtue of necessity because child endowment lets its class down’ lighter than a rise of the basic wage would, have done. That does not mean that we are not glad to have this bill; we are more than glad. Another passage in the honorable senator’s speech which struck me as being rather good was -
Even if we could choose an average family unit, it would not reflect the situation of the employee throughout his working life. .lt would be too lar.gc at the beginning and end of his working life, when his domestic responsibilities would be comparatively light, and too small, when his domestic responsibilities would reach their peak.
That was a gem. There never has been any time in the history of this or any other country when the amount paid to workers in any circumstances was too much. There never will be any possibility of that until we make a more decent approach to matters and ensure that all men, women and children in the community live, as they are entitled to live, up to the fullest possibilities of the wealth production of the country. Some day we shall have that and then we shall all live in luxury. The Government should not wrap itself up with the idea that anything ever done in the past or even now under the cover of this bill or by any other means will adequately pay the workers of this country a decent wage.
I now proceed to address myself to the bill itself.
The Minister further stated -
We are desirous that the benefits promised under this scheme should be given promptly. We are proceeding with the necessary administrative preparations with a view to having the scheme in operation as from 1st July of this year. We can achieve that result if honorable senators assist the passage of thu necessary legislation. I nsk the Somite to give the bill it speedy passage.
Yet this afternoon supporters of the Government expressed astonishment that the Opposition remained silent during the discussion of the preliminary measures without which this bill could not have reached the Senate. It is common knowledge that in the House of Representatives a determined attempt was made by Government supporters to block the passage of this bill. They were prepared to wreck the measureand members of the Opposition were silent to-day because they declined to join the wreckers. It is to the credit of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) that he could not be made amenable to the wishes of those who tried to destroy the bill. We heard half a dozen speeches from honorable senators on the Government side on the two bills which preceded this measure, and they all gave apologetic support to the scheme. They said: “We support the bill but- “.
Had the Opposition been in power and had brought down this measure, I say without hesitation that those honorable gentlemen would not have been found supporting it.
– That’ is not correct.
– It is a fact which will be produced in evidence against honorable senators opposite at a later date. That is why members of the Opposition sat silent this afternoon, so that they could gauge the measure of sincerity of the support given’ to this bill. I do not wish members of the Opposition to be regarded as so simple that they do not understand why honorable senators opposite favour this measure.
Child endowment has been in operation in Great Britain and on the continent of Europe since 1796, or nearly a century and a half, yet this Government required a jolt in March, 1941, to awaken age-old opponents of every social reform to the fact that this is a long-delayed measure.
– Why has child endowment not been introduced in Queensland ?
– Through the Queensland Arbitration Court, the Labour party in that State last month secured an increase of 5s. a week in the basic wage, and the rate in Queensland is now the highest in the Commonwealth.
– Did the court act under instructions from the Labour Government in Queensland?
– No, but the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is awaiting instructions from the Commonwealth Government and that is the reason why no decision has yet been declared on the basic wage claim. The first attempt to embody the principle of child endowment in the law of a State was made in New South Wales in 1919, but that bill was not proceeded with. Then came the Commonwealth Public Service scheme, which became operative on 1st November, 1920, when, following on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Basic Wage, child endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for each dependent child under fourteen years of age was paid to officers, with a limitation of salary plus allowance of £400 per annum. As the result of proceedings before the Public Service Arbitrator in 1923, these allowances were confirmed as a permanent part of the salary scheme, and the necessary fund to meet them was created by deducting the average value of the payment from the basic wage of all adult officers. In effect, therefore, the officers are themselves providing the fund from which the allowance is paid. The deduction was originally £11 per annum, but is now £12. The payment is now’ limited to officers receiving up to £500 per annum inclusive of the allowance. In New South Wales, seven years after the first attempt was made in that State, a child allowance measure was passed. The present bill is an improvement on that embodied in the Commonwealth Public Service scheme and is also an improvement on the New South Wales scheme.
– When the Labour Government was in office in 1931 it did nothing about child endowment.
– I remind the honorable senator that no social reform was ever accomplished in this or any other country except as a result of a jolt administered to anti-Labour governments by the pressure of public opinion. The party represented by honorable senators opposite never yielded anything in the way of social reform until it was forced from them by the crowbar of public opinion.
The first basic wage introduced in Australia provided for a man and his wife. The first award in New South Wales was £4 5s. a week for adult males - rural employees were awarded £4 4s. a week - plus 5s. a week for each dependent child. The total earnings were not to exceed the basic wage and 5s. a week for each child. Thus a worker with three children, and earning £5 a week, would not receive an endowment allowance until the arrival of the fourth child. The measure now before the Senate is an improvement on former schemes and for that the Opposition is glad. On the 28th September, 1927, a royal commission was appointed, as a result of a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers called by the Commonwealth Government in June of that year, to consider fully a national scheme of child endowment. A report was presented by that commission, and there was also a minority report, but the government of the day did nothing in regard to the matter.
– The Labour party was. in office after that.
– The profound ignorance of honorable senators opposite is staggering; but Senator Spicer has told the truth. The Labour party was in office, but it was not in power, because owing to a hostile Senate its vital measures were rejected. Among the members of the commission was Mr. John Curtin, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. The other members were Mr. T. S. O’Halloran, K.C., chairman, Mrs. Florence M. Muscio, M.A., and Messrs. Ivor Evans and Stephen Mills. A minority report was submitted by Mr. Curtin and Mrs. Muscio. The reports presented by the commission were pigeonholed, and it was necessary for this Government to receive a jolt in March, 1941, in order that it might be brought up to the barrier. The Government of the day in 1927 “ passed the buck “ to the States. It said that the responsibility of initiating this reform rested with the Parliament of the States, and, therefore, nothing was done regarding child endowment.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Evatt) said that it would be unconstitutional for the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with it.
– But the minority report contained no such comment. There is nothing new in the impelling motive which makes the people demand a family allowance. When I was a young man, a gentleman named Malthus acquired a considerable reputation in the older countries by advocating the limitation of families. He said that the population was increasing at such a high rate that it was impossible for wealth production to keep pace with it, and that disaster would result if parents continued having the large families that were common in those days. That doctrine received a good deal of credence, because in those days a knowledge of political economy and- economics generally was as rare as it was in the dark ages. Very few people understood anything about those subjects. But to-day w-e know that no reason exists to limit the family insofar as the wealth productivity of this, or any other country, is concerned. Nature is bountiful enough to supply for all children the good things of life. No insurmountable reason exists for poverty and malnutrition. When honorable senators opposite talk about their virtue in bringing down this belated measure, I remind them that when a Labour government, under the leadership of the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, a common working miner, decided to establish a maternity allowance, their predecessors in political economy opposed that measure. ex-Senator St. Leger, whom I knew very well, achieved unenviable notoriety because he said that Fisher’s maternity allowance was a sop to profligacy. I have not forgotten his statement, although I have no doubt that most honorable senators opposite have never heard of it. It was said recently that proposals of this kind should not be made the plaything of party politics. I said then, and I now repeat, that those who believe in Labour’s policy have no need to be ashamed of party politics. I am proud of Labour’s policy; but I was never more proud of it than when the late Mr. Andrew Fisher brought in that bill, At the same time, when ex-Senator St. Leger made that remark I resolved to follow him and his tribe, so far as it was possible to follow them, and to confront them with their crimes whenever I got the opportunity to do so. I am presented with such an opportunity to-night. I am glad that our opponents are now converted. We on this side are delighted to welcome such converts, because we are always glad to see political penitents coming to the footstool of the Opposition, and declaring their sins and asking for forgiveness. That is why we speeded the passage of the bills which were passed through this chamber this afternoon. I draw the attention of the Assistant Minister to a fact which I regard as most significant. The Commonwealth ‘Statistician recently declared that the birth-rate in Canberra is the highest in Australia. I wonder whether honorable senators opposite know what that means? Some of us on this side have not had the advantages of the superior education enjoyed by some honorable senators opposite, but the veriest neophyte on this side knew what those figures meant immediately he saw them. They mean that wherever men are given security of employment there will always be an increase of the birth-rate. Honorable senators opposite have only awakened to the fact that this matter is so important, and their awakening is due solely to their discovery that in a few years sufficient man-power will not be available in this country to do some of the things for which we require manpower to-day. Just as employers make provision in their balance-sheets and financial arrangements for depreciation iu respect of their machines, so they must be forced to provide for the replenishment of their human machines, the family, the boys and girls coming on.
– I thought that the honorable senator objected to the payroll tax.
– I said that that was the responsibility of the Government. The birth-rate in Canberra is the highest in Australia. Prom that fact it is clear that the Government can accomplish something immediately it gets a jolt strong enough to awaken it to the fact that, if men are paid good wages, and women are given a decent chance in life through the payment of a proper allowance - and this allowance cannot be so described, although, in the circumstances, it is sufficient to go on with for the time being - no trouble in respect of the birthrate will be experienced. Of the 1,800,000 children in Australia under the age of sixteen years, 1,000,000 will benefit under this measure. We should like to see the benefits of the bill extended, but, at the moment, we are not asking that that be done. Our immediate concern is that this bill be placed on the statutebook, because, once that is done, it will not be long before a Labour Government will be able to mould this measure to its own desires. I shall conclude by reading an extract from a brochure which was circulated among members of Parliament during the week by a women’s organization operating in New South Wales. This extract will serve as a fitting conclusion to my remarks -
liven i.f the father is perfect and brings every penny home - even though the mother bo the best of managers - the laws of arithmetic are too much for them. It is impossible to make thu same amount of money do for a family of six or eight what it will for one of two or four. “Margarine looks like butter, and flannelette like flannel, but they do not give thu some nourishing and warming qualities.”
First and second babies are spotless and well cared for, but the later-comers have to put up with the limp and faded cast-offs of their predecessors. Everything in fact, that the third, fourth., and fifth child consumes - its food., clothing, bedding, soup, and even its mother’s cart! - is filched from a supply which seemed only just to go round before it caine. How many clever elder children have had to go to work at fourteen because of the need to add to the father’s wage instead of being able to continue at school? The unemployment rations, unsatisfactory though they are in some ways, are given in accordance with the number of members in a family - the vaunted Family Wage is not.
It is not for nothing that the birth rate is decreasing, and that the knowledge of coining maternity fills .parents with despair. “ How shall we “feed it?”
Finally, I express my gratification that this bill, belated as it is, has been introduced. I assure the Government that the Opposition will enable the measure to be passed with the celerity it deserves.
– This proposal is totally inadequate to enable the poor to bring up their children. When it was proposed in the House of Representatives that endowment should be paid in respect of the first child, it was stated on behalf of the Government that such an extension of the benefits of child endowment would involve an additional expenditure of £11,000,000. According to the Government Statistician, there are 800,000 first children in families, 300,000 of whom are only children and the remainder the first child, in families of more than one. None of those children will be eligible for benefits under this scheme. Honorable senators will not be surprised when I say that this great national social reform should be financed out of national credit. I have so often produced authorities for that statement that I shall not do so on this occasion. I feel sure that not one honorable senator opposite remains unconvinced that I have given ample evidence to prove the practicability of using the national credit for this purpose. Such a proposition, however, is always met by the protest that it will lead to inflation and other terrible evils. Let us hear what Roger Keynes, one of the leading British economists, has to say regarding the financing of schemes of this kind.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing the financing of the scheme on this bill; the cognate financial measure has already been passed.
– A large portion of family expenditure is incurred on education. To-day education is very expensive despite the fact that we are supposed to have a system of free education.. The cost of books alone in a family of several children is almost prohibitive. I quote the following from an article written by Mr. W. H. .”Williams, a member of the Research Branch of the Department of Education of New South Wales. It must be remembered that the cost of education is nothing compared with the cost of ignorance. The children of this country must bc educated if they are to play their part in the national life of this country. Dealing with economic adjustment, Mr. Williams said -
Though the problem of distributing the world’s wealth in such a way as to guarantee thu economic emancipation of its people has so far battled the economists . . .
That of course refers to the orthodox economists who are the advisers of the Commonwealth Government and of the various State governments. They are all at loggerheads because no two of them can reach the same conclusion about anything. The new economists of which I am a humble representative have already solved that problem. The quotation continues - . . Such a distribution must continually be envisaged and every difficulty lying in the path towards its attainment boldly attacked. The State cannot afford for one moment to neglect its responsibility at this point. If the ideal -of an economy of abundance is deleted from the list of desirable social objectives, humanity will thereby suffer immeasurable loss. In the name of sanity and fairness there should be available for all children fit to benefit by them, ample facilities for educational progress and freedom from financial hinderance.
The question that arises is where are we going to get the greater part of the money to finance this scheme? A previous bill provided for a pay-roll tax upon employers, but I maintain that the proceeds of the tax will not be sufficient.
– Where does the honorable senator get that information?
– That is my own opinion after a long study of this matter. Two ways of financing the child endowment scheme have been suggested.
– Order ! The honorable senator will not be in order in proceeding along those lines.
– This is a matter of great importance, but I bow to your ruling, Mr. President. I should like to deal now with the first child of a family. I was one of twelve children. Any one who knows what modern, marriage means to the young man on the basic wage will appreciate his difficulties. He must save for years to get enough money to equip himself for married, life and when married he has to set up a home, and is involved, in the expenditure of a large sum of money on furniture, most of which is usually purchased on the .timepayment principle. Then, after a year or so, the first baby usually comes along and the. expense involved makes it very hard for the parents to make ends meet. There is no inducement for them to have a larger family. That is why I maintain that the payment of endowment in respect of the first child in a family is of the utmost importance. In his book The Tyranny of Words, Stuart Chase said1 -
In 1708 Malthus published his famous essay on population, one of the grandest examples of extrapolation on record. The essay was in part designed to answer William Godwin’s argument to the effect that mankind could achieve happiness through the use of reason. Malthus wanted to scotch the dangerous idea that happiness was in prospect to the mass of the people (the principle of “ original sin”) again. So by study of the exceedingly unreliable statistics of the time he laid down two postulates: First, that population tends to grow at a geometrical rate; second, that the food supply tends to grow at an arithmetical rate. The population of England was then 7,000,000; in a hundred years if the curve was followed it would be, he said, 112,000,000. If food was sufficient for the 7,000,000 in 1800, by 1900 the supply would expand to feed only 35,000,000 - “which would leave a population of 77,000,000 totally unprovided for.”
Malthus had many followers in England at that time.
This fantastic hypothesis was then solemnly applied to the problem of poverty. As the population was designed to leap ahead of food supply, restrained only by pestilence, war, and famine, it followed that measures to improve the living standards of the mass of the people were futile.
What is this Government doing to improve family life and to raise the living standard of the people? The quotation continues - “ It is, undoubtedly, a most disheartening reflection that the great obstacle in the way of any extraordinary improvement in society, is of a nature that we can never hope to overcome.”
That was before the age of mass production in industry, and to-day, if the economic situation were mastered there would be sufficient food for all. However, it will never be mastered if the advice of orthodox economists is followed. It is the advice tendered to governments by such economists that has got us into trouble to-day. A remarkable statement by the Leader of the Opposition in the Tasmanian Parliament, Mr. H. S. Baker, appeared in a Hobart newspaper a few months ago. It is something that should be brought under the attention of honorable senators. Mr. Baker criticized the action of the Tasmanian Treasurer, Mr. Dwyer-Gray, at the last Loan Council meeting in suggesting, as I have often done in this chamber, that finance could be obtained from our national bank.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to refer at length to finance on this hill.
– The statement to which I have referred was made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Tas manian Parliament. Commenting on what Mr. Dwyer-Gray had said, Mr. Baker said that his party stood for obtaining expert advice on financial matters, and expert advisers were seldom members of Parliament. Why should we not have expert financial advisers in Parliament? The present alleged experts have managed the business of the country so well that we started this war with a national debt of £1,300,000,000. I have a far better idea of carrying on the war than that. When the child endowment scheme was first mooted I was called to a conference held in Launceston, representative of various women’s organizations which for many years have been working to secure an improvement in child welfare, and the care of mothers. The complaint, made at that conference was that the child endowment scheme did not provide for the endowment to be paid to the mother.
– It does.
– Then the scheme must have been altered. My impression is that in its original form the bill did not so provide. I have been associated with social work in Hobart for the. last 20 years and I know the conditions. At the conference of which I have spoken, the fear was expressed that the mothers would not actually get the benefit proposed under this legislation. A protest was made, and I am very glad to find that the bill now provides for the payment of the money to the mothers. A request was also made that child endowment be paid in respect of every child in families which have more than one child ; that in a family of two or more children, the payment of endowment for the youngest child be continued until the age of sixteen, notwithstanding that it is the only dependent child ; and that the endowment be paid to widows in respect, of all children maintained by them.
I do not intend to speak at great length on this subject. I hope that this measure is only a start. The child of to-day is the man or woman of to-morrow, who will assume the responsibilities of the nation. A child that grows up in a . bad environment, and is neglected and uneducated, makes a very poor citizen. We cannot regard too seriously the welfare of children in our national life. Reports of health officers in almost every State of the Commonwealth show that malnutrition, rickets and other children’s ailments are .rife. I was in Hobart recently when Lady Gowrie opened the new Children’s Hospital in that city. Many of the beds in that hospital are occupied by children suffering from limb troubles such as infantile paralysis caused by lack of proper food and lack of medical attention. J. have already given honorable senators statistics showing that a tremendous number of children will not benefit under this scheme. I hope that the Government will reconsider the matter, and bear in mind the fact that if there is a shortage of money, it can be obtained in millions. In paragraph 504 of its report, the Royal Commission on Banking-
– Order ! I shall have to ask the honorable senator to resume his seat if he persists in discussing finance on this bill.
– I. have shown that this measure does not by any means eliminate all family problems, and I trust that it is only a preliminary step in. the right direction.
– I congratulate the Government upon bringing down this measure, but I arn looking forward to the time when a wider view will be taken of the problem of the replacement of our population. It is generally accepted that a family of two children does not adequately replace the demise of the parents. A family of three children is required to do that, and. I hope that, in the near future, child endowment payments will be ou a sliding scale, so that, in the case of the fourth, fifth and sixth children, when the family cost factor becomes heavy, the payment will be more than the 5s. provided for in this measure. My view is that, in order to encourage larger families - and some encouragement is necessary - the payments in respect of the fourth, fifth and sixth children should be in the vicinity of 6s., 7s. and 8s. respectively in preference to a flat rate. I think that we could then expect better conditions than now obtain in the larger families. T congratulate the. Government upon the introduction of the measure.
Debate (on motion by Senator KEANE adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Leckie) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
The Australia-Southern Rhodesia trade agreement is the result of negotiations conducted at Canberra with the Southern Rhodesian Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Captain F. E. Harris, D.S.O. Designed to promote trade between Australia and Southern Rhodesia, the agreement provides for reciprocal tariff concessions on a preferential basis. The range of Southern Rhodesian products for which market opportunities exist in Australia is limited and, accordingly, the agreement provides for concessions by Australia on only three products - tobacco, crude asbestos and chrome ore. The item to which Southern Rhodesia attaches the most importance is tobacco. Southern Rhodesia is a producer of highgrade tobacco leaf of Virginia type and has built up a considerable export trade, particularly to the United Kingdom. The Southern Rhodesian Government is desirous of opening up further avenues for the export of tobacco leaf and, in existing circumstances, it would also be of considerable advantage to Australia if a greater proportion of our import requirement1! of tobacco could be obtained from Southern Rhodesia.
There is no question, of course, of Rhodesian leaf replacing the Australian product. The Australian grower is assured of a market for his production. Indeed, in recent months, consumption of Australian leaf has been at a higher annual rate than current production. The Government is endeavouring to extend local production along sound lines in order to meet as large a proportion as possible of total requirements. Nevertheless, for some years to come, local production will have to be supplemented by very substantial imports. The exchange costs involved by these imports are heavy and, in present circumstances, it is obviously advantageous for us to encourage production within the sterling area, thus lightening the burden on the Empire’s dollar resources. Accordingly, the Government has agreed, subject to the approval of Parliament, to grant a tariff preference of 9d. per lb. on unmanufactured tobacco of .Southern Rhodesian origin. No spectacular results are expected as a result of this preference, but it is hoped that it will be possible to obtain at least some of our import requirements from Southern Rhodesia in the immediate future. From the longterm point of view, the extent to which Australia will be able to draw supplies from Southern Rhodesia will depend very largely on the capacity of producers in that country to increase their output of high-grade leaf suitable for blending with Australian tobaccos. Crude asbestos is an essential raw material, and is at present admitted into Australia from British Empire sources free of both customs and primage duties. In recent years, crude asbestos has been the only important product exported by Southern Rhodesia to Australia. In 1939, the value of the trade as shown in the Southern Rhodesian statistics amounted to about £66,000.
Under the terms of the agreement, an undertaking is given that Southern Rhodesian asbestos will continue to be exempt from payment of primage duty and also that, should customs duties be imposed at any time, Southern Rhodesian asbestos will be admitted at the lowest rates accorded to any other country. Chrome ore, the third . item in which Southern Rhodesia is interested, is also admitted free of customs duty, but is at present subject to primage duty at the rate of 5 per cent, and, accordingly, is also liable to the special war duty of 10 per cent, of the amount of the duty payable. The agreement provides for the abolition of the primage duty on chrome ore of Southern Rhodesian origin and also contains a similar assurance with regard to customs duties as is given on crude asbestos. Manufacturing activities in Southern Rhodesia are on a relatively small scale and arc chiefly confined to the processing of local foodstuffs and raw materials; thus, the country is largely dependent on outside sources for its requirements of manufactured consumers’ goods and industrial machinery and materials. Up to the present, Australia has had only a small share in Southern Rhodesia’s import trade. Total imports into Southern Rhodesia in 1939 were valued at £9,000,000 and imports from Australia in that year totalled only £57,000. Wheat is the principal item in the trade, accounting for £28,000 of the total. The remaining items include textile bags, ploughs and other farm implements, timber, sporting goods, gelatine, flour and currants and raisins. One reason why Australia has failed to secure a larger share of the Southern Rhodesian market is that, owing to the existence of a preferential agreement between Southern Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa, many Australian products have been placed at a competitive disadvantage. The present agreement, if approved, will remove that disability in respect of those items of particular interest to Australia.
Under the agreement, Southern Rhodesia has undertaken -
These concessions cover a wide range of products and give Australia an opportunity to supply a much greater proportion of Southern Rhodesia’s import requirements than has been done in the past. The agreement contains the usual reciprocal clause with regard to content requirements. It is subject to the approval of the Parliaments of Australia and of Southern Rhodesia and is of indefinite duration, subject to six months’ prior notice of termination. The Government is confident that the concessions provided for under the agreement will prove of material, benefit to both countries and will create useful opportunities for increased trade.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by SenatorFoll.) read a first time.
– I move -
That thebill he now read a second time.
On the 1st July, 1938, Act No. 13 of 1938 ratified and authorized certain agreements relating to the Empire air service between England and Australia. In the second schedule of that act, the form of agreement between Qantas Empire Airways Limited and the Commonwealth of Australia was approved. Included in the form of agreement whichwas duly executed were certain definitions of persons and authorities concerned in the operation of this agreement. At the time the original agreement was made, the Civil Aviation Board was in operation under the Department of Defence. On the 11th
January, 1939, the Civil Aviation Board ceased to exist and the Department of Civil Aviation was constituted. The original agreement, however, provided for the Civil Aviation Board, the ControllerGeneral of Civil Aviation, and the Minister for Defence, the Secretary, Department of Defence and the Secretary, Civil Aviation Board, to carry out various matters contained in the agreement. Owing to the setting up of the Department of Civil Aviation, changes in organization have resulted and the original agreement is now operated by the Minister and Department of Civil Aviation. It is therefore necessary and convenient for the Commonwealth to enter into a supplementary agreement with Qantas Empire Airways Limited, which will provide for the deletion of titles which are no longer applicable, and the substitution of those which are now in use. These are clearly set out in the form of a supplementary agreement now included in the bill. There is no alteration in the objects secured in the original agreement. The bill simply provides for a supplementary agreement containing certain variations of definitions of titles of persons and authorities concerned in administering the agreement and ratifies the actions taken by those persons since the constitution of the Department of Civil Aviation as from the11th January, 1939.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
Allowances to Members of Parliament - Treatment of Militia Officers - Universal Trainees’ Allowances - Treatment of Returned Soldiers - Payments to Members of Australian Imperial Force in Australian Currency.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Senate and of the
Minister representing the Minister for the Army (Senator Foll) another army contract that will contribute very largely to the very bad odour that surrounds so many other Army contracts. When I have finished this story I shall ask the Minister: For whom is this war being waged? Whatever his answer may be I am sure on the facts that I shall adduce, that the public will agree that the conduct of the war is being allowed to become a money-making festival in Australia for the Babbitt, the racketeer and the profiteer. Honorable senators may remember that I hammered away for three weeks endeavouring to get information about the Abbco Bread Company Proprietary Limited fine. My questions were evaded by the Minister in addition to which I was deliberately misled.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - If the honorable senator implied that he was deliberately misled by a Minister he must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word “ deliberately “. I was misled. I had private information about the Abbco Bread Company Proprietary Limited scandal, but I was compelled to take it from this National Parliament to a State parliament to have it ventilated. Now that the cold light of day has been thrown on it in the public press the Government has decided to hold a royal commission on it. Why could not the Minister have taken the trouble to investigate the matter when I asked him to do so, or did he ignore the Senate in the hope that honorable senators would forget it? There is far too dictatorial an attitude taken by Ministers towards questions asked by senators in’ the public interest. Had the Government taken sufficient notice of my original questions I asked concerning Abbco Bread Company Proprietary Limited three months of valuable time would have been saved and there would have been no chance to cover up evidence and possibly to square witnesses. Government supporters may murmur that this cannot happen, but the evidence of our police courts is sufficient proof that it does happen.
The case that I desire to bring before the Senate is, like its predecessors, rightly calculated to raise in the public mind more than a suspicion that funds, squeezed largely from breadliners, are going into the pockets of public thieves. When the Army pays more than it should for an article or a commodity, there is a traitor somewhere in the camp. As public men it is our job to seek him and to ensure that he shall not have the opportunity again. Without interruption from July, 1940, Mr. R. E. Fitzpatrick, a contractor of Horsley Road, Milperra, in the State of New South Wales, satisfactorily fulfilled a contract for blue metal at a price of approximately lis. 9d. a ton’. Mr. Fitzpatrick is a contractor of such magnitude that the army contract would be a drop in the ocean to him, so there can be no suggestion that this exposure is being made on his behalf. He was a big contractor before this war began and he continues to be a reliable source through which blue metal is obtained to-day. As I stated, Mr. Fitzpatrick started to supply the Army in July, 1940, and continued to do so un.til January, 1941. His orders for supplies of blue metal and receipts were invariably signed by officers on behalf of a Major Sinden, A..D., of the Engineers’ ‘Store in the Eastern Command. Strangely and suddenly at the beginning of this year Major Sinden decided to give the Army’s blue metal business to somebody else at an increased price. Honorable senators will remember that Mr. Fitzpatrick had been supplying metal at lis. 9d a ton. On the 22nd January Major Sinden gave a contract to Blue Metal and Gravel Proprietary Limited, of 34 Martin-place, Sydney, for similar blue metal at 14s. a ton, and on the 10th March gave an order to P. H. Childs, of Eagel-street, Liverpool, at 14s. 6d. a ton. The order numbers for these two transactions approved by Major Sinden or his representative were L.314/2 and L.290/7, and their respective dates the 10th March and the 22nd January. I mention those two orders merely as examples but there were many more.
Mr. Fitzpatrick had at all times during this vital period been ready and willing to supply the Army needs at 11s. 9d. But Major Sinden determined that the Army should pay 14s. to 15s. a ton. Honorable senators will see from Mr. Fitzpatrick’s consistent figure of 11s. 9d. that a margin of from 2s. 6d. to 3s. a ton was being paid unnecessarily. I suggest that it was going into some one’s pocket. What accentuates the suspicion that surrounds this contract is that since the case was brought under my notice and I determined to expose the circumstances in the Senate, Mr. Fitzpatrick had been given another small order which was fulfilled at his usual price of11s. 9d. The order number of this contract was L.270/45. It was dated the 25th March, 1941, and was for 4 tons of¾-in. metal at11s. 9d. It was signed by or on behalf of Major Sinden. Just a fortnight before, on the 10th March, the same Major Sinden signed an order to Mr. P. H. Childs of Eagel-street, Liverpool, for 4 tons of¾-in. metal, but on that occasion he was content for the Army to pay 14s. 6d. a ton.
In my possession I have the documentary proof in the form of signed and receipted order forms dated from July, 1940, showing that Mr. Fitzpatrick had consistently and satisfactorily supplied Army orders at a price that never exceeded11s. 9d. a ton and on occasions was as low as11s. 3d. a ton. Why then should Major Sinden suddenly decide to switch from this most economical source of metal supply to others which immediately involved the Army in increases of up to 25 per cent. in cost? There must be an immediate and thorough investigation of all the ramifications of this case. It must not be a whitewashing departmental inquiry. If it is to be effective it should be conducted by a parliamentary committee. I think, in fact, that the Government would be giving the most effective protection to public funds against the inroads of these plunderers if it established a permanent parliamentary committee to watch and examine all war contracts. If that were done it would put an end to the banditry in bread, boots and blue metal. Such banditry will never be stopped until a parliament appoints a committee of men who will go out and seek these people, and then report to Parliament. The cost involved would be much less than that of a royal commission, and the public would be satisfied that their interests were being watched and that those who plunder, rob and filch public money for their own aggrandisement, will be brought to book.
.- On the 11th December last I asked the following questions in the Senate: -
An interim reply was given stating that, as research was necessary, an immediate reply could not be given but an answer would be furnished as early as possible.
Later the information was supplied in a letter, but as it is important that the details be published, I ask leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - As the information was supplied in answer to a question, and the hour is late, and the honorable senator is entitled to read it, it will be incorporated in Hansard.
Question No. 1. - Nil
Question No. 2. - Nil
Question No. 3. - Paymaster Lieutenant T. D. Oldham (M.L.A., Victoria), is serving with the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was mobilized on 29th August, 1939, and demobilized on 30th November, 1939; George Morris, Esquire (M.L.A., Queensland), is serving as a Sick Berth Chief Petty Officer at Flinders Naval Depot as a member of the Royal Australian Fleet Reserve.
Question No. 4. -
Royal Australian Ant Force
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 April 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1941/19410402_senate_16_166/>.