16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from Mrs. Charles Hardy and family a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of ex-Senator Charles Hardy.
– I have received from Mr. J. G. Drake a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of the Honorable James George Drake.
– It is with regret that I announce to the Senate the death of Dr. Millice Culpin, a former member of the House of Representatives, who died in Brisbane on the 1st September last. The late Dr. Culpin was elected to the House of Representatives for the division of Brisbane in 1903, and continued to represent that electorate until 1906. He died in his 95th year, and at the time of his death was the oldest medical practitioner in
Queensland. Many years have passed since he sat in the Commonwealth Parliament, but in keeping with the tradition of this Parliament, we honour his memory, and on behalf of the Senate I extend to the members of his family our sincere sympathy. I move -
That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of Dr. Millice Culpin, a former member of the House of Representatives for the division of Brisbane, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and extends its sincere sympathy to the members of his family in their bereavement.
– The late Dr. Millice Culpin was one of my oldest personal friends. He died at the remarkable age of 95 years, and retired from the active practice of his profession as a doctor in 1920. He was a native of England, having commenced his education at Aileynea Grammar School, Stevenage, just three months before the outbreak of the Crimean War. He came to Brisbane, more than 60 years ago. He was elected to this Parliament in 1903 as the member for the division of Brisbane. He held the seat for one term only and was then defeated.
In those early days in the history of federation, Dr. Culpin’s advent to this Parliament was regarded by some of us as a highly creditable achievement. It was most unusual to have a member of the medical profession espousing the cause of Labour, and we were very proud of the fact that he had been elected to this Parliament. He was a man of remarkable personality. Like most successful medical men he had a decided bedside manner, as well as a most agreeable voice. Despite the fact that he was a vigorous champion of the political cause in which he believed, and also of the faith which he held, gentility and tenderness to an unusual degree were characteristic of him. One rarely meets men with such qualities as those of the late Dr. Culpin. He was a prominent member of the Queensland Rationalist Society right up to the time of his death. He had a remarkably talented family. His wife died many years ago, but he is survived by two sons and three daughters. Professor Millie* Culpin, a noted psychologist, now practises in London and another son is Dr. E. Culpin, of Brisbane. One of his daughters is Miss D. E. Culpin, B.A., who obtained her degree in the Queensland University. One son, Private Howard Clarence Culpin, was killed in action in the last war. We regret to have to record the passing of so many who have played a great part in the political life of this country. When a man has reached the great age of 95 years, death is not unexpected, but it remains our duty to remember those who have rendered great service to the Commonwealth in the past. For members of the Opposition, and on my own behalf particularly, I express appreciation of the late Dr. Culpin’s services to his coun- try, and our deep sympathy with the members of hi3 family, in their bereavement.
– I associate the members of the Country party in this chamber with the motion before the Senate. The late Dr. Culpin undoubtedly had a remarkable career and attained a great age. He was held in the highest esteem by all with whom he came in contact. We express our deep sympathy with the members of the family and with the other relatives, in their bereavement.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
– It is with regret that I inform the Senate of the death, in Melbourne, on the 8th September, of ex-Senator BrigadierGeneral William Kinsey Bolton. The deceased gentleman was elected to the Senate for Victoria at the general elections in 1917 and was a senator till 1923. During the term of his parliamentary service he was a member of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee in 1918. He was also a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts from 1920 to 1923. In the war of 1914-18 he was appointed to command the 8th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force, and left Australia in October, 1914. He saw active service on Gallipoli and was invalided home in 1915. On behalf of the Senate, I extend to his widow and family our deepest sympathy, and move -
That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of former Senator William Kinsey Bolton, C.B.E., V.D., places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and extends its sincere sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
– I had not the privilege of acquaintance with the late ex-Senator Bolton, but it is our duty, as well as our privilege, to pass a motion expressing our appreciation of the services which he rendered to his country, not only as a member of this Senate, but also in other ways, and to convey our sincere sympathy to his widow and family.
– Like the ‘Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), I had not the honour of personal acquaintance with the late exSenator Bolton, but I have a knowledge of the work that he did during his lifetime, and I know that he did a great amount of good. Perhaps he can best be described as one of nature’s gentlemen. The members of the Country party in the Senate desire to be associated with the motion, particularly that portion of it which expresses sympathy with his widow and the members of his family.
– As an old friend of the late ex-Senator Bolton, I desire to support the motion. In Victoria he was better known as a soldier than as a politician. For over 25 years before the Great War, BrigadierGeneral Bolton, like hundreds of other officers in the Volunteer and Militia Forces, ‘gave up his week-ends and holidays to prepare himself for the time when his services might be needed. The knowledge so gained stood him in good stead when, shortly after the outbreak of the 1914-18 war, he was given the responsible task of raising, training and commanding the8th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. How well he carried out that task was afterwards shown at the landing on Gallipoli on the 25th April, 1915. A glance at any war map of the Anzac sector of the Gallipoli Peninsula reveals the words “ Bolton Ridge “ on one of the key positions - a position taken and retaken on that memorable day and night by the 8th Battalion. The locality was so named as a tribute to that unit, whose commander, despite his years, gained a reputation as a first-class front-line commander. The welfare of his men was always his first consideration. After the gruelling battle of Krithia on the 7th and the 8th May, 1915, Colonel Bolton’s health militated against further active command. I took over the battalion from him on the 16th May of that year.
In the post-war years the deceased gentleman took no active part in military affairs, but he was always to the fore in the advocacy of better treatment of returned soldiers.
I join with honorable senators in this tribute to a lovable man, a true Australian, and a democrat; and I wish to be associated with the motion of condolence which extends our sincere sympathy to his widow and family.
– I, too, desire to be associated with the motion. The late Brigadier-General Bolton was elected to the Senate on the same day that I was elected, in 1917. I well remember the fight that he always put up in this chamber on behalf of returned soldiers, particularly when the late Senator E. D. Millen was piloting through this chamber the first Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. That measure was improved in many ways as the result of suggestions made by ex-Senator Bolton. The sympathy of all honorable senators goes out to his widow and to the members of his family in their great loss.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) - by leave - agreed to -
That the time for bringing up the report from the Joint Committee on Wireless Broadcasting, appointed on the 3rd July, 1941, be extended for a further three months from the 3rd October, 1941.
Senator HERBERT HAYS brought up the first progress report from the Joint Committee on Rural Industries.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Senator Uppill) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Allan MacDonald on account of ill health; and
That leave of absence for three months be granted to Senator Wilson on account of active service abroad.
– by leave - On the 27th August, Senator Aylett directed certain questions to the Minister representing the Treasurer and asked who had instructed the Commissioner of Taxation to circularize taxpayers to the effect that the only family deductions allowed are for a wife and one child, and tinder whose authority such instructions were issued. As Minister representing the Treasurer I stated that the Commissioner of Taxation did not. so circularize taxpayers. My statement was made in the certain knowledge that no instruction of the kind had been issued by the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation and in the belief that the instructions issued to Deputy Commissioners regarding instalment deductions were so clear as to preclude the possibility of such a circular being issued in any State. On the following day, the 28th August, Senator Aylett drew the attention of the Senate to a circular issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Tasmania, wherein it was stated that in calculating instalment deductions the allowance made for dependent, children was to be limited to one child. Inquiries were immediately instituted by the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation, and it has been discovered that the circular referred to was issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Hobart, who is also the State Commissioner of Taxes. The circular was issued without the concurrence of the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation and is definitely contrary to the instructions issued by him. Immediate action was taken to issue a circular to every employer in Tasmania correcting the circular complained of and advising that, in every case where an employee furnishes a declaration in respect of more than one child under the age of sixteen, the instalment deducted from his salary or wages is to be reduced by an amount of 3s. for each child shown in the declaration. Advice has now been received by the Commissioner of Taxation that such a circular has been forwarded to every employer in Tasmania.
– Has any provision been made for the refund of tax wrongfully collected under the first circular to which the Minister has just referred?
– I shall obtain information relating to the precise procedure that has been adopted in regard to the refund of taxes wrongfully collected and will advise the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister state on what date the correcting circular was issued to prevent the illegal collection of taxes?
– I ask the honorable senator to place that question on the notice-paper.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development state what authority is investigating and reporting upon the selection of a site in Western Australia for the erection of the proposed distillery for the production of power alcohol from wheat? Has a report yet been submitted to the Government? If so, will particulars as to the location of the site be made available to honorable senators ?
– The Western Australian Government was asked to advise the Commonwealth as to a suitable site, and has furnished a report on the subject. The answer’ to the last part of the honorable senator’s questionis “ No “.
– Why is the Minister unwilling to disclose the site recommended by the Western Australian Government and approved by the Commonwealth Government?
– The site has not yet been decided upon. It is not the custom to disclose confidential information given to the Commonwealth Government by the government of a State until a decision has been reached.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development state when finality will be reached by the Government in connexion with the application of Mr. D. A. Craig for authority to establish a refinery in New South Wales for the treatment of crude oil, petrol and bitumen ?
– The Government hopes to reach a decision in regard to the matter shortly.
– Will the Leader of the Senate suggest to the Prime Minister that a suitable message be sent to the members of the Tobruk garrison expressing the appreciation of this Parliament of the splendid stand which the garrison has made in the last few months, a stand which has favorably influenced the course of events in Libya?
– I shall be pleased to bring the matter to the notice of the Prime Minister. If such a message be sent, I hope that the name of the honorable senator will be included in it.
– In view of the number of conflicting statements made by the Minister for Supply and Development concerning petrol rationing, will the Minister now make a considered statement of policy on thesubject to which he will adhere for at least a fortnight ?
– I have notmade conflicting statements in regard to the matter. If the honorable senator can point to any evidence of conflictingstatements made by me on the subject I shall give his question a considered reply.
Reports on Items - Annual Report.
Senator LECKIE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Bounty on Electric Cable and Wire, rubbercovered.
Bounty on Wooden and Composite Ships.
Elastic 1 inch to 2 inches in width.
Enamelled Wire, covered or not covered, and other Magnet Winding Wires.
Senator LECKIE also laid on the table the following paper: -
Tariff Board - Report for year 1940-41, together with summary of recommendations.
Notice of motion in the name of Senator Arthur for the disallowance of Statutory Rules 1941, No. 189, being National Security (Coal Control) Regulations, withdrawn.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation state whether any applications for war service homes have been received from soldiers who have served in the present war, and whether such applications will be given priority over those already received from men who served in the last war? Further, how long will it be before all applications for war service homes received from men who served in the last war are finally dealt with?
– Some, but not many, applications for war service homes have been received from men who have served in the present war. New applications will be dealt with in the order in which they are received. I cannot answer the honorable senator’s final question as I should like to be able to do. The handling of those applications depends on many factors, including, to a large degree, the fact that we are now engaged in war.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army under what authority the Government enlists men in the Militia Forces and informs them that the term of their service is for the duration of the war?
– Under the Commonwealth Defence Act.
– Has any appointment yet been made to the Commonwealth Grants Commission to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Sir Frederic Eggleston, who was recently appointed as Australian Minister to China? In view of the fact that the term of appointment of the present members of the Commission will expire in about six weeks, does the Government intend to reconstitute that body?
– No successor to Sir Frederic Eggleston, who was chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, has yet been appointed, but this matter is now being considered by the Government. I shall bring the honorable senator’s second question to the notice of the Prime Minister.
– In view of the fact that the call-up for military service includes married men without children, can a married man to whose wife a child is born one month after he entered camp obtain exemption from such service?
– If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper I shall obtain a reply for him.
– Has the
Minister for Aircraft Production noticed an article by Captain P. G. Taylor in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 16th September on the necessity for providing a strong force of fighter aircraft for the defence of Australia? In view of the unanswerable case made out by Captain Taylor, when will the Minister be able to announce - (1) The commencement of manufacture of fighter aircraft in Australia ; (2) the date on which it is anticipated that the first fighter aircraft will be completed; and (3) the name and nature of the proposed fighter aircraft to be manufactured in Australia?
– I have seen the article referred to by the honorable senator. The Government has already taken step3 to provide fighter aircraft in Australia and plans are already being prepared for the construction of such aircraft. At this juncture, I cannot say the exact date on which manufacture will commence, but I shall be able, within a few days, to announce that date, and also the kinds of aircraft to be manufactured.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, in view of the present grave shortage of labour, which will most probably become more pronounced, he will consider allowing oldage pensioners to earn sufficient with their pensions to bring their income up to the basic wage, and in, that way help to relieve the shortage of labour?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister. However, I remind the honorable senator that that matter is now being considered by the Joint Committee on Social Security, which is representative of all parties in this Parliament. Any recommendation which that committee makes will receive the sympathetic consideration of the Government.
Cooperation of Militant and Ais Services
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army inform me whether the recommendation of the. General Officer Commanding the Australian Home Forces, Lieutenant-General Sir Iven Mackay, that a section of the Royal Australian Air Force should be attached to the Army, has been implemented, or has the opposition shown by the officers of that Force defeated the proposal?
– The whole question of strategy associated with the command of the Home Forces by Lieutenant-General Sir Iven Mackay is at present under consideration. I assure the honorable senator that neither the officers of the Royal Australian Air Force nor anybody else has offered opposition to anything that is likely to assist in the defence of Australia.
– As the Leader of the Senate has so frequently mentioned that there are experts in Australia on the processing of flax, will he supply the secretary of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, with the names and addresses of those experts, with the exception of Dr. A. E. V. Richardson, who has already given evidence, so that they may be called before the committee, and thus expedite its inquiries?
– As the question indicates, we could not find a better source of information than the honorable senator himself.
Hairdressing Saloon s - Repatriation Benefits.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army state whether the report appearing in the press to the effect that the Minister for the Army intends to arrange for the provision of hair-dressing saloons costing £450 in each military camp is true, and if so, will inquiries be made in order to ascertain whether the saloons are to be on palatial lines such as those at the Australia Hotel, David Jones Limited, and Farmer and Company Limited, in Sydney, because I am confident that suitable saloons with at least five or six chairs could be provided at a cost of £100.
– I cannot say whether the statement is entirely correct, but I know that the Minister for the Army desires to ensure that members of our fighting forces are given an opportunity to obtain the services provided in such saloons under favorable conditions. Surely none will begrudge the provision of such a service.
– Oan the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether it is a fact that members of the Australian Imperial Force, who have been stationed at Darwin for twelve months or more, and have become ill or have met with an accident, cannot be repatriated in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, as can soldiers serving in Malaya and Singapore? If so, will the Minister take into consideration the. fact that the men at Darwin are serving their country in just the same way as are their colleagues at Singapore, Malaya and elsewhere?
– The question which the honorable senator has asked should be set out in writing, and I suggest that it be placed on the notice-paper.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice - ].. How many persons have been enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Forceas guards?
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
Ministerial Statement: War Pen sions; Service Pensions; Training and Employment; War Service Homes.
– by leave - It is unnecessary to remind honorable senators that for two years we have been at war, but now that the toll of human flesh and blood is made evident by the existence of unfillable gaps in our families and amongst our friends, by the growing numbers of wounded and sick in the hospitals, and by the appearance in the streets of the cities of the long-ago familiar “ hospital blues “, there is a commendable and increasing concern on the part of members of this Parliament and others as to whether the Government is alive to the responsibility which lies upon it and is taking adequate measures to meet the situation.
Therefore, it seems that at this juncture I may render some assistance to honorable senators if I recount, as briefly as I can, something of what has been done, and also of that which is in the mind of the Government in regard to the needs of the immediate future. For this purpose I have prepared a statement, and I propose, with the. indulgence of honorable senators, to present a broad picture of those repatriation activities upon which they are, no doubt, often consulted, and upon which, from time to time, they are good enough to refer to me as the responsible Minister. I would ask honorable senators to understand that, in the use of the word “exsoldier “ in this statement, I include sailors, airmen and the members of the nursing service.
As at the 30th June, 1941, the total sum expended on repatriation was over £290.000,000. which included the following items: - War pensions, £171,569,093; service pensions £1,973,212; medical treatment, £10,263,064; employment and Vocational training, £7,712,421; soldiers’ children educational scheme, £2,232,148; war gratuity, soldier settlement and war service homes, £91,000,000. This total disregards the cost of placing and maintaining the forces in the field, and all military expenditure. We may well say that this is a considerable sum to be raised from a population such as that of Australia, but the fact that the taxpayers have made the contribution without complaint may be taken as a striking and eminently satisfactory appreciation of the services to the nation rendered by the men and women who volunteered during the 1914-18 war.
The development and extension of legislation relating to war pensions since the passing of the War Pensions Act in 1914 is of considerable interest and indicative of the sympathetic consideration that has been extended by successive governments since that date. War pension rates in the original act were provided as follows for soldiers with the rank of private and their dependants, with increased rates for higher ranks. For total incapacity: Member, 40s. a fortnight; wife, 20s. a fortnight; and each child, 10s. a fortnight. The rates for widows and children of deceased soldiers were 40s. and 10s. a fortnight respectively. Provision was also made for pensions for certain other dependants.
In 1916 the rates were revised and increased as follows: - For total incapacity: Member, 60s. a fortnight; wife, 30s. a fortnight; first child, 20s. a fortnight; second child, 15s. a fortnight ; and third and subsequent, 10s. a fortnight. The rates payable to widows and other dependants remained unaltered, but those for children of deceased soldiers were increased to the rate as provided in respect of total incapacity, but the pensions of children both of whose parents are dead were increased to allow of the following scale: - Up to 10 years, £1 a fortnight; ten to fourteen years, £1 5s. a fortnight; fourteen to sixteen years, £1 10s. a fortnight.
No further amendments occurred for four years, but in 1920 the Government entrusted the administration of war pensions to the Repatriation Commission, and an amendment was inserted in the
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act embodying the appropriate legislation. The opportunity was then taken to place the rates of war pensions on a more liberal basis. The minimum rate for total incapacity was set down at £4 4s. a fortnight for a member up to and including the rank of Lieutenant, whilst the rate for a wife was increased from £1 10s. to £1 16s. a fortnight, and those of the children remained as amended in 1916. Special pensions of £8 a fortnight were provided for (a) blinded soldiers; (Z>) totally and permanently incapacitated members, that is, incapacitated for life from earning other than a negligible percentage of the living wage; and (c) in cases of pulmonary tuberculosis, authority was given under this section for the payment of a special pension not exceeding £8 a fortnight in defined cases. The pension in respect of wives and children and special rate pensioners remained as for the general 100 per centum rate.
As regards widows, the minimum pension was left as in the 1916 act, but provision was made for the payment of a pension of not less than £4 4s. a fortnight where there were dependent children, and at such other rates, not exceeding £4 4s. a fortnight, as the commission deemed expedient, where the widow had no dependent children. Equivalent benefits by way of war pensions and living allowance were afforded widowed mothers of deceased unmarried soldiers, and in cases of other parents, rates enabling pension to be supplemented to provide adequate means of support were authorized. Where any parent has lost a son as the result of war service, a pension may be granted if at any time such parent is without adequate means of support, and irrespective of whether or not there was dependence upon the deceased son prior to his enlistment. In considering the question of adequate means, the ability of other sons or daughters to contribute to the support of their mother or father is disregarded. The cost of living, when these rates were decided on, was approximately the same as obtained in the first year of the present war, and when the index figure relating to cost of living dropped considerably in the intervening years, no reduction of the rates of pensions of former members of the forces took place, although, in 1931, at the time of the depression, certain dependants’ pensions suffered some reduction. These decreases, however, have in the main, now been restored.
The next extension of the act was in 1922, when an attendant’s allowance of £2 a fortnight was granted to men suffering spinal injury and thus unable to care for themselves. This allowance, of course, was in addition to the special pension of £S a fortnight for the member and normal rates for wife and children. By the tame amendment, the fifth schedule, having reference to specific injuries by way of amputation, &c, was added to the act. This awarded allowances over and above the general pension rate, ranging from 7e. a fortnight in respect of loss of an arm below the elbow or a leg below the knee, to £3 16s. a fortnight for the more severe double amputations. Examples of how these allowances operate are -
In addition, attendants’ allowances of £4 a fortnight and £2 a fortnight were authorized in appropriate cases. From 1922 onwards, various other forms of allowances were approved in supplementation of certain types of pensions. These included an attendant’s allowance of £2 a fortnight for blinded soldiers; an allowance of 15s. a fortnight for soldiers suffering total loss of vision in one eye,; £2 a fortnight for members temporarily totally incapacitated; and an additional 5s. a fortnight for the third and subsequent children, thereby placing all children after the first on an equal basis.
It is appropriate, and will probably be of considerable interest to honorable senators, that I should relate the avenues of application and appeal available to former members of the forces and their dependants in connexion with war pensions administration. The act confers on a Repatriation Board in each State the authority to grant or refuse a war pension. Against a board’s decision, there is the right of appeal to the Repatriation Commission. Until 1929, the commission was the final arbiter, but in that year a very definite variation of policy was adopted, when the Government decided on the appointment of tribunals for the purpose of hearing appeals against adverse decisions of the commission, both in respect of entitlement and assessment. The personnel of the Repatriation Commission and Repatriation Boards consists in each case of three members, all of whom are returned .soldiers, and one of whom is the nominee of returned soldier organizations. The tribunals established were the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal and the War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. The Entitlement Tribunal consists of three members, all returned soldiers, the chairman of which must have been admitted to practise as a barrister or solicitor of the High Court or of a supreme court of Australia; one member is nominated by soldier organizations, and the third is a government appointee. This tribunal travels throughout the Commonwealth, and the act makes provision for an appellant to be present at the hearing of his appeal, and may also be represented thereat by an advocate other than a legal practitioner. Moreover, certain travelling expenses necessarily incurred in his attendance before the tribunal may be paid to the appellant. The constitution of the Assessment Tribunal is somewhat different, as its function is, in fact, the assessment of the degree of disability suffered as a result of war service. Such a determination must necessarily depend largely upon the medical evidence, hence the personnel of this tribunal comprises a chairman, with legal qualifications similar to the chairman of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, who must be the nominee of returned soldier organizations, and two medical members selected from panels of doctors in the respective States, who also are in almost every instance returned soldiers, approved by the Minister. By this means the tribunal can have, and it is so constituted as to have, the services of specialists in their respective spheres available to sit on the tribunal. The chairman of the Assessment Tribunal travels throughout the States, but the medical members are selected from a panel of practitioners in each capital city. As in respect of appeals to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, travelling expenses are payable to the appellants.
It will be seen that these tribunals have no relation whatsoever to the repatriation administration, and thus they afford soldier appellants entirely independent avenues of appeal. For purposes of convenience the tribunals function in offices provided by the commission. It may be well if I were to emphasize that the law does not permit of any interference on the part of the Minister of State administering the Repatriation Act with the findings and decisions of these appeal tribunals, nor is it desirable that he should do so.
Another pleasing feature of our legislation is the absence of any time limit within which a former member of the forces must apply for the acceptance of a condition as being resultant from war service. Even when his case has been adjudicated upon by the three statutory bodies mentioned herein, and he subsequently submits new evidence which has a material bearing on the case, the claim may be re-opened. It is only right to make known, too, that in the collection of evidence in support of an application, the ex-soldier is given every possible assistance by the Repatriation Commission. In fact, where inquiries are necessary in relation to medical treatment, employment, &c, the commission undertakes them, and bears the cost of such investigation.
With the introduction of the financial emergency legislation in 1931, the Government of the day was constrained to effect certain reductions of the pensions of dependants, but those of the ex-soldiers themselves were unaltered ; and as soon as the financial position permitted, action was taken to bring about appropriate adjustments of the pensions of dependants. In its approach to this vital question, the Government sought the advice and assistance of a special committee of returned soldiers, representing the various soldier organizations, and acted substantially on the recommendations of that committee.
The act of 1920 provided that a sp:(na rate pension was not payable for any period that the member was maintained in an institution at the public expense. Later, this provision was modified somewhat by the insertion of the words “except for a short period”. That phrase was interpreted by the commission first as 28 days, but later as 42 days, and the act was amended in 1935 to allow this extension.
Several marked advances were incorporated in the amendments of 1934-35. Payment of pension at not less than 100 per centum rate was granted to any exmember suffering incapacity as the result of pulmonary tuberculosis due to war service. This means that although incapacitation through pulmonary tuberculosis may decrease even to a considerable degree, the war pension will continue to be paid at 100 per centum rate. There is little need to enlarge on the generous nature of this provision, and its consequent ease of mind to the recipient, in that he is relieved of anxiety as to any possible reduction of his pension. Section 31a validated by legislation the concession first authorized by the Government in 1925.
Another important decision is embodied in section 39a. The Government decided to pay pensions to dependants, at rates as in respect of death, where at the time of death the member was in receipt of a special rate pension, and irrespective of the cause of death and its relationship to war service. This concession likewise was made applicable in cases in which pensions were being paid under the first eight items of the fifth schedule to the act - that is, in every case under this schedule in which an ex-member is receiving an allowance of 36s. or more, over and above the general 100 per centum rate.
Early in 1938 the Repatriation Commission decided to introduce a policy of stabilization of war pensions. It decided that in cases in which the incapacity for which pension was payable was apparently permanent, future reviews would be discontinued. This policy was adopted by the commission in an endeavour to give to the ex-soldiers a permanent sense of security by relieving them of anxiety as to their war pensions in the future, and also to obviate the necessity, and sometimes the inconvenience, of attending for regular medical examination. As the result of the foregoing procedure, approximately 95 per cent. of the war pensions payable in respect of the 1914-18 war have now been stabilized. A pensioner is informed in writing when stabilization is effected, and also that should he at any future date consider that his war-caused incapacity has increased he may apply for a review of his pension, which will be arranged forthwith.
Before leaving the subject of pensions, I desire to direct attention to a cogent factor, which, in discussion, is often overlooked although it is perhaps one of the most common causes of misunderstanding. War pensions must of necessity be based on the degree of physical damage by injury or disease suffered as the result of war service, and must not be influenced by the economic circumstances of the exsoldier. This governing principle has been followed by almost every country throughout the world, and unless such basis be maintained the whole system would tend to become chaotic. Put in another way, it means that the ex-soldier, having had his war disabilities assessed, and the appropriate treatment and pension arranged for and granted, is then discharged from service and becomes, in effect, an ordinary member of the community. Unfortunately, he is, as such, still heir to the malignant processes of nature and also to the ills which beset the ordinary citizen. For these the Commonwealth Parliament has not yet assumed direct responsibility. Some of us may regret this, but I feelassured that when, in these enlightened days, public opinion brings about the desired improvements of our social services, such difficulties will disappear. It is interesting to record that war pensions being paid in respect of incapacity caused as the result of the war of 1914-18 remain current, even though the ex-member may have re-enlisted and served in the Forces during the present war. It might be as well to state here that this is not applicable to service pensions, in respect of which income from whatever source must be taken into account. As at the 30th June, 1941, war pensions were being paid to 75,767 ex-members of the Forces, 123,787 dependants of incapacitated exmembers of the Forces, and 25,937 dependants of deceased ex-members, with a total annual liability of £7,412,684.
In 1935 legislation which instituted the payment of service pensions as from January, 1936, was introduced. These pensions constitute a social benefit, especially for ex-members of the Forces. They are granted on one or other of the following grounds : -
An ex-member becomes eligible to apply for a service pension on reaching the age of 60 years, provided that he has served in a theatre of war, whilst a female member - a nurse - who has reached the age of 55 years, and either embarked for service abroad, or served abroad, becomes likewise eligible. Under b a male member is eligible if he served in a theatre of war and by reason of physical or mental disablement is permanently unemployable, even though such disablement was not the result of war service. The same conditions apply in respect of a. female exmember, except that service abroad need not necessarily have been in a theatre of war. Under c an ex-member is eligible if suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, even though such condition is not the result of war service. Furthermore, there is no qualification as to the necessity for service in a theatre of war. In respect of both b and c, the ex-member’s wife, if married before the 2nd October, 1941, and children, up to and including four in number, if born prior to the foregoing date, may also be granted service pensions. On the 30th June, 1941, service pensions were being paid to 8,368 exmembers and 5,713 dependants, with an annual liability of £533,622. As each year passes a ‘considerable number of ex-members who served in the 1914-18 war reach the age of eligibility, and thus the annual liability will increase steadily for some years to come.
For the medical and surgical treatment of soldiers military hospitals were, of course, established in connexion with the last war. These were afterwards taken over by the commission, and in the years which followed the cessation of hostilities the institutions were improved considerably and equipped according to modern hospital standards. The result is that up-to-date general hospitals, sanatoria and clinics are available for the treatment of all war-caused and waraggravated disabilities. On the 31st July last, there were 1,373 soldiers of the last war undergoing in-patient treatment at departmental institutions, and 24,877 attending for out-patient treatment. In addition, treatment was being given to other dominion ex-soldiers and certain Defence personnel ; of these 525 were inpatients, and 686 were attending for out-patient treatment.
Concomitant with the work of the general hospitals was the essential service rendered by the Repatriation artificial limb ‘ factories. These factories aTe staffed by specially trained artisans, who, being amputees themselves, are able to appreciate the peculiar needs of those requiring artificial and surgical aids. These aids include surgical boots, spinal jackets - in fact, a wide range of appliances which are calculated to assist the man in his calling and recreation. On the subject of the manufacture of artificial limbs, the commission has, moreover, maintained close contact with leading overseas authorities, and it can be said, without fear of challenge, that the articles which are produced in the repatriation factories in Australia are equal to any produced elsewhere.
As the result of having to undergo a course of medical treatment, the patient may be prevented from following his usual occupation, and in consideration of this, provision exists for the granting of a sustenance allowance. The amount .payable is such as will, together with any war pension, bring the patient’s allowance up to the equivalent of a full war pension. In the early years following the war of 1914-18 the Government made provision for widows, widowed mothers and orphans of deceased ex-soldiers to receive medical benefits through the medium of the friendly societies. An important part of the activities designed for the more immediate re-establishment of soldiers returning from the war of 1914-18 was the vocational training scheme. The main part of the scheme covered training for trades, those eligible being the ex-soldier who, owing to war disabilities, was unable to follow his pre-war occupation, or who, at the time of enlistment, was under 20 years of age. If preliminary training was necessary, it was given at special schools, vocational training sustenance being paid at rates ranging from 84s. to 160s. a fortnight, according to whether the trainee was single or married, and the number of children in the family. When 40 per cent, efficient, the trainee was placed with an employer who paid the journeyman wage, but was reimbursed 60 per cent, thereof by the Commonwealth. From time to time the trainee’s efficiency was reviewed, and as the efficiency of the trainee increased the payment to the employer “was correspondingly reduced. Professional training was provided for the ex-soldier who was qualified to enter a university, and who at the time of enlistment was under the age of twenty years and in a position to undertake the course if assisted by a grant of £150. Professional training was also provided for those who, prior to enlistment, had intended to enter upon a professional course and were not more than 30 years of age at the time of application, or, irrespective of age, had entered upon the course. The assistance granted in these cases was the payment of fees for the course as a gift, and sustenance, up to 42s. a week, for the first academic year. Assistance was also granted to an ex-soldier who, although in employment, was desirous of undergoing a course of training with a view to increasing his efficiency or to qualifying for a better position. Further assistance, namely, sustenance for succeeding academic years, and the
In pursuance of a Cabinet decision during the financial year 1927-28 ex-soldiers who, through their war service, were incapacitated to such a degree that their means of locomotion were restricted to cots or wheeled chairs, may be granted an allowance of £10 a month for recreational transport purposes. A similar allowance, but of only £5 a month, may be granted to ex-soldiers who, through the war, have suffered double amputation - one leg above the knee and the other below the knee. As at the end of June. 1941, 167 ex-soldiers were receiving £10 a month, and 29 were receiving £5 a month. The
So far I have dealt with factual matters the practical reactions to which are recorded in our history or are evidenced in our surroundings. Let me now pass on to reflections upon the present tragic conflict and bring to notice the acts and proposals associated with the welfare of those who, like their older relatives, are serving us so gallantly abroad. When the present war commenced, the Government lost no time in appointing an inter-departmental committee to advise it on the question of pension rights for members of the present forces, and it may be stated that the war pension and medical treatment rights under the principal act have been made available to them, with the exception that, in the case of men serving in Australia only, disabilities or death, in order to be pensionable, must be directly attributable to war service. This was considered quite reasonable and necessary in view of the large number of men who would be enlisted and probably never be required to serve overseas - for example, the ground staff of the Royal Australian Air Force. The main cases affected by this change were those men killed or injured whilst on leave. However, this matter has been recently dealt with by the introduction of a regulation which allows of the acceptance of claims where an accident has occurred whilst travelling on leave to or from camp or other place of service employment provided that the [17 September, 1941.] soldier had been enlisted for overseas service. This, in effect, means that where a man serving overseas dies or is incapacitated from an occurrence happening during the period he was a member of the forces, pension will be paid as in the last war, and where a man with service in Australia only dies or is incapacitated as the direct result of war service, pension will also be paid to, or on his behalf, at the same rates as in the last war. Coincidental with the extension of pension and treatment facilities for the present war, provision was also made for the children of deceased or totally and permanently incapacitated soldiers to participate in the benefits of the soldiers’ children education scheme. Medical benefits for widows and children of deceased soldiers on the same lines as those provided during the last war and the funeral benefits previously mentioned have also been extended. During and since the last war it has been possible to use the splendid facilities of St. Dunstan’s in England for men who were blinded; but because of the fact that Australians in the main are in theatres of war nearer to their own country than England, and the lack of shipping accommodation, blinded soldiers will be returned to Australia. Moreover, it would be unfair to subject men, already disabled, to the possibility of further injury through England’s air raids. The Government took steps to survey the requirements in Australia in case it should be necessary to face the problem of handling blinded men. With this in view, a committee was appointed and a useful report has been submitted. In this there is a clear indication of the course to be pursued, and the Government will provide any necessary training and equipment should the need arise.
This brings me to the question of training and employment. Because the conditions which are now operating in Australia are so vastly different from those which were operating during the last war, it was felt that it would not be sufficient merely to extend the provisions of the old regulations to meet the requirements of the soldiers of the new Army. That would have been comparatively easy. It was apparent, however, that many new problems would have to be faced, looming largely among them the difficulties attendant on the retraining of men engaged in what are essentially war-time industries and the question of industrial absorptive capacity. Moreover, the implementing of an education scheme for serving members of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, had to be taken into account, as did the whole question of reconstruction which must come about after the war. For these reasons, it was obvious that no really useful end would be achieved by attempting to draw up a concrete scheme before the whole matter had been thoroughly investigated and reported on by persons qualified to express opinions on the many and varied phases of the problem. In this regard, I may say that advantage was taken of the existence of the Inter-depar[mental Advisory Committee on Reconstruction which had been convened by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). A sub-committee was formed and subsequently a comprehensive report was submitted by representatives of the Departments of Labour and National Service, Army, and Air, and the Repatriation Commission on the question of training and employment. Although the Government has not yet reached finality with regard to that report, that does not mean that nothing of a concrete nature has been done. On the contrary, regulations have been passed empowering the Repatriation Commission to proceed with the placing in employment of men who, in the meantime, are returning from service overseas. Already, as in the cases of maimed and partially invalided soldiers, the need for some system of vocational training being immediately available has been demonstrated, and the Government has under consideration a tentative scheme intended to function until the major proposal has been fully examined and reduced to workable limits. A decision upon the matter may be expected at an early date. For those awaiting employment a sustenance allowance is payable as follows : - Ex-member, £2 2s. weekly ; wife, 18s. weekly ; each child with a maximum of three, 7s. 6d. weekly. Sustenance is, of course, inclusive of any war pension which may be payable, and is available for an aggregate period of three months. As at the 31st July last, 940 applications for employment had been received, and of this number 707 were placed, 97 had lapsed for various reasons, and 136 still remained to be placed. The total amount paid in sustenance from the inception of the scheme in January, 1941, amounted to £6,074. In connexion with the employment of discharged soldiers, it is of interest to note in passing that, under the National Security (Reinstatement in Civil Employment) Regulations, a former employer can be compelled to re-employ an ex-soldier who gave up a position in order to enlist.
Regulations, which have recently been promulgated, also provide for the supply of any necessary tools of trade to the value of £10 by way of gift and, in addition, an amount of £40 by way of loan. Where men have secured employment in country districts the regulations empower the commission to grant the applicant his fare to the place of employment. The mention of employment will naturally invoke in many minds the question of preference to returned soldiers. To this principle the Government has already expressed its adherence. But it proposes to go farther and endeavour to secure its uniform observance throughout the Commonwealth not only in the public services but with private employers as well. To this end a conference with State authorities will be sought at an early date in order to discuss ways and means.
Another provision recently approved by the Government is that of free passages to the Commonwealth of the wives and children of members of the Forces who have married while serving abroad, and in this regard arrangements are already in train, given that shipping facilities are available to provide the necessary transport accommodation.
I turn now to another phase of repatriation, the matter of war service homes. The governing legislation was enacted in 1918 and became operative as from March, 1919. Parliament has since approved of sundry amendments to the parent act, and the Forces serving us to-day have access to its benefits. To the 30th June, 1941, the total number of homes provided since the commencement of the original scheme in 1919 was 37,409. Of this total there remained at that date 25,135 homes still subject to the act, because liability had not been discharged. Loans granted covered proposals for the erection of new homes, purchase of already-erected dwellings and discharge of mortgages, or other encumbrances, where onerous conditions existed in connexion with agreements entered into privately by eligible persons for the purchase of homes. The total expenditure during the period since the commencement to the 30th June, 1941, has been £29,840,064.
Whilst tie scheme generally forms part of the broader field of repatriation in that the Commonwealth bears the cost of administration, it is primarily a business undertaking designed for the purpose of assisting eligible persons individually to obtain loans for the purpose of erecting, or acquiring, a home on easy repayment terms. The statutory limit of the act as regards loans is £950, and’ repayment may be spread over a term not exceeding 45 years and, in the case of widows, 50 years. It will be, perhaps, of interest if I mention here some typical repayment instalments which are calculated on an actuarial basis for repayment of loans at the prescribed rate of interest, i.e., 4 per cent. over different periods: -
In addition to these liberal terms for repayment of loans the act provides sinking fund facilities, to which fund borrowers may lodge to their credit sums additional to the monthly instalment payable in accordance with the agreement entered into respecting the loan. Such sums earn interest at the same rate as is chargeable on the loan, and may be used to meet rates, repairs, instalments accruing due, &c, or allowed to accumulate to discharge the loan earlier than agreed upon. Comprehensive insurance is provided for by the act for all homes, and premiums are much below those obtainable from companies transacting business of this nature in the ordinary way. The minimum deposit is 10 per cent, of the capital cost or valuation, and security is by way of mortgage, the title to the property being in the name of the applicant borrower. Each applicant is allowed full freedom in the choice of locality and subject to the approval of plans and specifications by the commission, is permitted, if he so chooses, to employ his own architect and builder. Homes are erected on the contract system after calling competitive tenders.
It has been suggested that, perhaps, the commission could arrange for the erection of numbers of homes of more or less cheap construction which could be let on a tenancy basis at low rentals, but I should like to point out in this connexion that Parliament never intended, nor does the act empower, the commission to engage in schemes for the erection of homes for the purpose of letting them on a tenancy basis as may be embarked upon by municipal authorities or private enterprise. The commission’s functions are restricted to the granting of loans to enable individual eligible persons to erect, or acquire, homes on the prescribed conditions, one of which is that the home, when erected, shall be substantial and durable. At present, and as was expected, only a few applications have been lodged by members of the Forces, and these have been lifted for consideration in their order of lodgment, subject to funds being available. It is not anticipated that any appreciable increase in receipt of application will occur until such time as greater numbers of the overseas troops are returning. It is hoped that by then labour, material and moneys now being diverted towards the national war effort will be again available for the pursuits of peace and general reconstruction including the housing question. The liberal terms in connexion with the acquisition of homes under the act applicable to returning members of the Forces, will contribute in no small measure eventually in relieving the home shortage throughout the Commonwealth.
A novel feature of the act is the assistance which may be afforded to widows and widowed mothers of deceased Australian soldiers, and to the wives of Australian exsoldiers who are permanently, or temporarily, insane. It will be observed from a perusal of the monthly repayment figures I have quoted that repayment instalments on the basis of a 50-year term, applicable to widow applicants in this category, give weekly equivalents of monthly instalments as follows: -
When a widow has bran assisted under the provisions of the act, and her circumstances are such that hardship would be caused by meeting payments due, the act empowers relief to be afforded in respect of instalments, current rates and taxes, &c, payment of these being met by the commission from a special trust account, and charged against the property itself. This provision ensures security of tenure in the home and removes anxiety to widows who, through matters beyond their own control, are unable to meet payments in connexion with the agreement entered into for the purchase of the home.
One might draw up a full list of the benefits which were provided in connexion with the last war, and proceed to compare them with those which are now available in connexion with the present war, but I do not think that any useful purpose would be achieved. Two forms of assistance which were available in the last war occur to me at the moment, namely, land settlement and the establishing of exsoldiers in small businesses. Land settlement in connexion with the last war was not generally attended with a great deal of success, and before anything of the kind is again contemplated the whole matter would have to be very closely examined. The States handled the scheme before, but the bulk of the criticism was levelled at the Commonwealth. The policy of again establishing soldiers in small businesses is one which also requires the most careful consideration in view of the experience arising out of the last war.
It is difficult to sum up, in a limited space, the whole question of repatriation, but I think that sufficient has been said to show that the Government is giving serious consideration to the problems which have arisen, and which will arise, as a result of the present war. It must be remembered that at the corresponding stage of the last war, i.e., after two years of hostilities, practically nothing had been done towards any serious repatriation policy other than providing pensions and medical treatment.
I conclude by saying that such success as has attended the administration of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act and the War Service Homes Act can be credited largely to the loyal efforts of the personnel of the Repatriation Commission, the Commissioner of War Service Homes, and their respective staffs, backed very substantially by the returned soldier organizations, whose advice and experience, availed of by past governments, has facilitated progressive and constructive improvements in legislation. . To these organizations, I commend the younger members of our new fighting forces who, in perplexity, may seek wisdom where wisdom has been born of the many tribulations of their older brethren of 1914-18.
Ministerial Changes - Representation in the Senate.
. - by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that on the 29th August, consequent upon the resignation of the Right Honorable R. G. Menzies as Prime Minister, the Honorable A. W. Fadden was commissioned by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to form a Ministry.
In addition to his appointment as Prime Minister, Mr. Fadden was appointed to the office of Treasurer; and the Right Honorable R. G. Menzies was appointed Minister for Defence Coordination.
No other change has been made in the portfolios held by Ministers since the Senate adjourned on the 28th August.
The representation of Senate Ministers in the House of Representatives as it existed when tie Senate adjourned has been varied only to the degree that the Minister for Air (Mr. McEwen) instead of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) will represent the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Leckie).
Senator McLEAY (South Australia-
Minister for Supply and Development). - by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that the Government has decided that the Right Honorable Sir Earle Page, Minister for Commerce, shall proceed to London at an early date to discuss with the United Kingdom Government war matters of vital common interest.
– by leave - read acopy of the Ministerial Statement delivered in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Frederick Stewart) (vide page 297) and moved -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings.) adjourned.
Repatriation : Government’s Pro posals; War Pensions; Medical Treatment for Soldiers’ Dependants - Compulsory Military Training : Medical Examination - Conscription for Home Service - Semi-official Postmasters.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– During the course of a long statement this afternoon by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Collett) we were told that the fact that members of the fighting forces had received pensions as a result of service in the last war would not prevent them from receiving pensions or sustenance on their return from the present war. I bring to the notice of the Senate the case of Sapper J.Clarke, No. NX9187, who, on his return to Australia recently, was denied a pension. He sought re-employment in the Railways Department of New South Wales and was informed that as he had left that service without permission when he enlisted, he had forfeited the right to return to his old job. He then approached the Repatriation Commission, reported that he could not obtain reinstatement in his former position, and applied for sustenance, but his application was rejected on the ground that he had received a pension in connexion with his service in the last war. Yet the Minister has made a statement in the Senate to-day which is pure political propaganda. When Clarke enlisted for service in the present war he was examined by military doctors and was declared to be medically fit. It has now been discovered by means of an X-ray photograph that he is suffering, not from a duodenal ulcer, but from chronic appendicitis. Clarke first underwent treatment at a field hospital for dyspepsia, was later treated on a hospital ship for the same complaint, and for that reason was discharged. However, the doctors now say that he is suffering from chronic appendicitis which he has had for three years. What was amiss with the earlier examinations made from the time of his enlistment until he was discharged that they did not disclose that appendicitis was the ailment from which he was suffering? This is not an isolated case. I was present at a call-up of unemployed recently when men were being selected for defence work. One of the men in attendance, who certainly should have been in hospital, had served for four years in the last war and for fifteen months in the present war. The best job that this man was offered was pick-and-shovel work. Such treatment of returned soldiers nauseates me. I am ashamed that although returned men are treated in this disgraceful way, the Minister tells the world that all is well with them.
Such a statement is so much piffle, and the public will not be prepared to accept it.
I also direct the attention of the Senate to the case of another returned soldier, J. T. Ashcroft, whose number is NX2912. This man served for a year and 95 days in the Army and for 343 days was on active service. He was discharged on the ground that he was medically unfit. He had three scars as the result of war injuries, and was discharged on account of the state of his heart. On his return to Australia he secured a job in the manufacture of aircraft parts, but he was astounded when he received the following letter from the Area Officer at Bankstown: - 53d Area,
Kitchener-parade, Bankstown. 12th September, 1941.
Advice received from District Records states that you have been discharged from the Army and that you are living within this Area.
Notwithstanding your Army service you are still obliged under the Defence Act to undergo universal training if medically fit.
Please complete the enclosed AA Form 3a and return it to this office. In due course you will be called up for medical examination and any reason for exemption that you may have will then be dealt with.
This man was injured at Tobruk, but if he and others who have served overseas are to be insulted on their return from active service by being told that they must enter a Militia camp in order to undergo universal military training, there is something wrong with the military authorities. Suchtreatment will not encourage men to join the Australian Imperial Force. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to see that a circular containing instructions that men who have served overseas shall not be called up for Militia duty in Australia is sent to every Area Officer. Men who served abroad in the last war were not called upon to enter camp on their return to Australia and I do not know why that should be done now. Instead of insulting men who have fought for their country the Government should do something for them.
To-day, a question was asked as to the authority of the Government to conscript
Australians for military service. I desire ro know on whose authority men are told that they will have to remain in camp for the duration of the war. The Government was not sincere when it said that there would be no conscription in Australia, because by subtle means it is endeavouring to introduce conscription.
– The Government gave no such promise.
– It did. The exPrime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that there would be no conscription, as did many other members of his Cabinet.
– The Government said that there would be no conscription for overseas service. That promise has been kept.
– There is conscription for service in Australia.
– Of course there is. For many years the law has provided that men between the ages of 18 and 60 years may be required to render personal service.
– The Government has not the courage openly to advocate conscription, but it is using subtle means to achieve its purpose. Men are told that it would be better to go to the Middle East or to Malaya than to remain in camp in Australia for the remainder of the war. It is all very well for the Minister to smile, but letters which I receive indicate clearly that the people resent what the Government is doing. I have in mind the case of a family which has one son at the war. Another son at home is the main support of his parents.
– He would, be granted an exemption.
– In some such instances, boys are taken from their positions as tradesmen and forced into camp for 90 days and told that they may have to remain there for the duration of the war.
– That is not done.
– Yesterday, I was interviewed by a lady from Earlwood whose son is in the position which I have mentioned. His application for exemption was refused. The matter is now with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) for attention. Such actions savour of Hitlerism and are not in the best interests of democracy. The Govern ment will have to alter its policy, or there will be widespread discontent. At first, men were called up to undergo training in militia camps for a period of 90 days. Later, they were told that they would be called up for a further 90 days’ training three months after the termination of the first period. In such circumstances discontent and friction is unavoidable. The Government has adopted a form of economic conscription. I ask it to act sanely and not to attempt to introduce conscription by means of a trick. If I were a recruiting officer, I would probably regard such tactics as a means of obtaining recruits, but I am not a recruiting officer. I bad too raw a deal in the last war.
– Rubbish !
– I do not want a repetition of what occurred in the war of 1914-18. I was not a colonel in that war. The colonel of the regiment to which I belonged was cashiered for cowardice. If men are denied sustenance for themselves and their wives and children, the Government will not get the best out of the Australian people. Nor will the war effort be furthered if men who have seen active service overseas are called up for compulsory military training when invalided home.
– I take this opportunity to place before the Senate a case similar to those referred to by Senator Amour. It relates to Mrs. V. Park, of Kyogle, whose husband is a prisoner of war. On the 24th July last the Kyogle branch of the Australian Labour party suggested that as she was in financial difficulties the Government might consider paying the sum of £4 14s. 6d., being the balance of confinement expenses incurred at the Kyogle hospital. The doctor who attended her charged only a nominal sum for his services, but this woman, after paying about £4 hospital expenses, still owes £4 14s. 6d. Her total income is £2 2s. a week, out of which she has to pay £1 a week for accommodation. Prior to his enlistment Mr. Park contributed ls. a week to the hospital, in consideration of which payment both -he and his wife were entitled to free hospital treatment, but since he left Australia with the Australian Imperial Force his wife has been unable to -continue the payments. On the 5th August this case was placed before the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) on behalf of Mrs. Park, with a view to the Government making a statement as to its policy in similar cases. The Minister replied on the 2lst August -
Further to your representations of the 5th August, 1941, in forwarding a letter from Mr. D. Holmes, honorary secretary, Kyogle Branch, Australian Labour party, concerning the case of Mrs. V. Park of Kyogle, I desire to inform you that the Department of the Army provides members of the Australian Imperial Force with complete free medical, hospital and dental attention, and grants sick leave on full pay and allowances during periods of. incapacity, until return to duty or discharge as permanently unfit for service.
It is not considered, however, that the Army should accept responsibility for medical and hospital treatment .required by dependants of members of the Australian Imperial Force.
Apparently, the official view is that people in such circumstances must depend on charity in order to obtain necessary medical treatment. The case of Mrs. Park can be added to the Dishonour Roll of the Government. It provides the Opposition with another reason for voting the present Government out of office at the first opportunity. Kyogle has a wonderful record in this war. Out of about 700 men of military age over 400 have enlisted. The case of Mrs. Park is known throughout the district, and it is not likely to stimulate recruiting. The people believe that the Government has an obligation in such cases. This woman’s husband has played his part. In his absence his wife required medical attention and incurred hospital and other expenses which she cannot meet. The Minister, however, flatly refuses to consider the case, and merely states that members of the Forces are looked after, but that in the case of dependants no obligation is accepted. Possibly 90 per cent of the sick dependants of soldiers serving in the Forces overseas are capable of bearing their own medical expenses; but that is all the more reason why a case such as that which I have brought to notice should be sympathetically considered. It is the bounden duty of the Government to assist necessitous dependants of soldiers so that they may not be forced to depend on the charity of their neighbours or of local institutions. It is a disgrace to the Government that the dependants of prisoners of war or the widows of deceased members of the Forces should be compelled to live in the circumstances inwhich this unfortunate woman in Kyogle exists to-day while members of the Government talk glibly about a “ total war effort “. The Government should formulate a policy which will ensure that there is no repetition of cases of that kind.
.- I desire to know from the Minister representing the Postmaster-General if consideration will be given to the question of raising the status of semi-official postmasters to that of official postmasters. I understand that, in the whole of the Commonwealth, only 135 persons would be affected. The majority of them are returned, .soldiers some of whom have been temporarily employed in that capacity for over twenty years. Their duties embrace the selling of stamps of all kinds, supplying and cashing postal notes, issuing and cashing money orders, the payment of war pensions, military and air force allotments, old-age and invalid pensions and child endowment, and the receipt of moneys for war service homes, wireless licences and telephone accounts. In addition, semi-official postmasters have to carry out other duties during election and military campaigns. Weekly and monthly returns have to be prepared and forwarded to the department’s head office. All of this entails clerical work and minute accuracy. Above all, a temporary official must be honest. In one Melbourne suburban office, nearly £100,000 was received and paid over the counter in one year. In some country post offices, the annual turnover is approximately £50,000. These returned soldier postmasters have served the department just as loyally as they served the nation in the Great War. Their position is insecure because of the possibility of their replacement by soldiers returning from the present war. They are up against a wall, a dead end to their ambition. If the Postmaster-General will grade semi-official returned soldier postmasters as official postmasters where the volume of business warrants such a change, the present holders of those positions will come under the scope of section 84 (9) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and become eligible for permanent rank with all the stability appertaining thereto. In urging consideration for these temporary semi-official returned soldier postmasters, I am not confusing them with non-official postmasters who are paid at scale rates determined in accordance with the business transacted at their offices. I ask the Minister to bring this matter to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– On three former occasions, I have raised the question of young men called up for service under the Defence Act being compelled to travel long dis.tances to undergo preliminary medical examination without being paid compensation for the possible loss of wages involved. Those particularly affected by this procedure are the young men engaged in the timber and mining industries. It does not necessarily follow that all of them are accepted for service. I should like some indication as to Government policy in regard to this matter. It is distinctly unfair that these men should be penalized because they reside at a distance from centres where medical examinations are conducted. I owe a duty to my constituents as a member of this Parliament, and I am surely entitled to know whether the Government proposes to recompense young men for time lost in that way.
– I rise to protest against the procedure adopted this afternoon with respect to the comprehensive statement read by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Collett) outlining the repatriation proposals of the Government. No opportunity has been afforded to honorable senators to discuss it. It is true that the subject may be debated when the budget comes before us, but only incidentally, and not as fully as its importance deserves. This subject is of major importance. On future occasions when a Minister asks leave to make a statement in respect of any important matter, without giving an opportunity to honorable senators to debate it, I shall feel inclined to exercise my right of refusal. I have no objection to statements of minor importance being read by Ministers.
To-day, however, we were given the outline of & repatriation scheme, which, as I have said, is of major importance to returned soldiers.
– That is why 1 made the statement.
– The point 1 make is that if the scheme be not discussed on its merits, the impression may go abroad that we on this side of the Senate acquiesce in it. The statement read by the Minister will appear in Hansard without any answer from members on this side of the chamber; but it will not be known to those who ma; criticize us that we were not given an opportunity to debate it. This subject should not be left for discussion during the budget debate; it should be discussed separately. If it be not discussed, I assure the Government that where it is in conflict with what is considered to be fit and proper by the returned soldiers and others who will support their claims, the Government is unnecessarily making a rod for its own back. When the Senate, which meets only on rare occasions, is summoned, we should be given an opportunity to discuss important papers tabled by Ministers. When the business of the Senate is handled in this way, I sometimes wonder how honorable senators can justify their presence here. I am particularly interested in this matter because, as honorable senators will recall, I have already on two occasions drawn the attention of the Minister to the case of Mrs. F. M. Simmons, of 12 Sixth-street, Parkdale, Victoria, the widow of a returned digger who volunteered and was accepted for home service, but who, in the course of bis duty, died. Both the soldier and his wife were in receipt of a pension, and they managed to get on fairly well; but when her husband died, Mrs. Simmons found it impossible to live on her paltry pension of 4s. 6d. a week. Granted that the Minister was sympathetically disposed towards her, and was prepared to increase the rate of her pension, there is a section in the Repatriation Act which makes the Commission a law unto itself. It can decide these cases independently of the Government or the Minister. I know of no other act giving a board or a commission such wide powers.
– There are a number of them.
– But they do not deal with such an important subject as that which we are now considering. There is no appeal from the decisions of cbe Repatriation Commission. On the last occasion on which I dealt with this matter, I received a communication from the Minister for Repatriation stating that be had forwarded my letter to the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) . Subsequently, the Minister for Repatriation wrote to me enclosing for ray information the reply of the Minister for Social Services to the representations I had made. That letter read -
I acknowledge your letter of the 3rd July, regarding the case of Mrs. F. M. Simmons, of 1.2 Sixth-street, Parkdale, Victoria.
If Mrs. Simmons is qualified by age or infirmity for an old-age or invalid pension, I would be pleased to take up the matter. There is no evidence on the files to indicate whether she has these qualifications. Failing such qualifications there is no federal provision for social relief which is really a matter for the State governments.
To say the least of it, that letter is an insult to the widow of a returned digger.
– It is nothing of the kind.
– The Minister may be a very poor judge in matters of that kind. I ask the Minister what ho would think if he knew that his widow would be expected to live on 4s. 6d. a week, and be told, on seeking relief, that if she were qualified by age or infirmity she would be eligible for the old-age or invalid pension. Would he not regard such a letter as an insult? Because the Minister and those associated with him are not likely to leave dependants in that position, they consider that this woman should submit to ‘the indignities placed upon her without protest. The Government should be ashamed of itself, and the Minister should be ashamed of himself for supporting it.
– Do not distort the facts.
– I am not distorting the facts. The facts are that this woman is the widow of a returned digger, and she is expected by the Government to subsist on 4s. 6d. a week. Representations have been made to the honorable senator, as Minister for Repatriation, and the Government, that some relief be given to her either through the repatriation legislation or in some other way; but the Government does not intend to give relief to her, unless she can qualify for the old-age pension or for the invalid pension. Such an attitude is an insult to this woman who has spent the best part of her life rearing a family, members of which have served in the Australian Imperial Force.
– I again ask the honorable senator not to distort the facts.
– I repeat that if the Minister’s statement could have been discussed as it should have been, honorable senators would have been given the opportunity to direct attention to that provision of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act which gives to the commission the power to which I refer. I could cite quite a number of eases of widows of returned diggers whose repatriation pensions are inadequate for their subsistence. After rearing families, and losing their husbands, these women are now expected to do the dirty work in offices and kitchens, or somewhere else, for a few paltry shillings a week. Ministers, of course, have their ministerial allowance, plus travelling and many other allowances, and to them the world does not seem so dark and hopeless as it is to these unfortunate widows who are expected to live on 4s. 6d. a week. Yet, when I explain a case, I am challenged by the Minister with distorting the facts. Had an opportunity been afforded to honorable senators to discuss the Minister’s statement on its merits, I should not have raised this case at this juncture. I protest emphatically against the action of the Minister in refusing honorable senators such an opportunity. I say to Ministers generally that I am prepared at all times to meet their convenience
Provided that they reciprocate. In future shall object to leave being granted to any Minister to make a statement of major importance unless an opportunity be given to honorable senators to discuss it.
– I was not in the chamber when Senator
Amour commenced his speech. The statement which I made this afternoon was not intended to he propaganda, although, incidentally, it must be so; it is spreading information, and very good Information. It is history made by not merely this Government but by successive governments since 1914; and a Labour government had a really big share in framing that legislation. I made my statement this afternoon because there is an increasing desire on the part of honorable senators, and members generally, to know the basis on which our repatriation business is transacted. I think that I presented a fair picture of that aspect this afternoon. I did not invite discussion on the paper by moving that it be printed. That discussion will come later, because amending legislation must be introduced ; and if honorable senators generally are to be enabled to view that legislation in its proper perspective, they must have the information which I gave them this afternoon.
Parliament is the place where complaints by members may be legitimately made. I repeat the word “ legitimately”. I have had occasion to ask honorable senators on, not only the opposite side, but also this side of the chamber, if they would be good enough to bring individual cases to my notice. As Minister, it is my job to remedy ills that are noted. However, an honorable gentleman - I shall not use the plural - may rise in his place in this Parliament and state a case, and add that he knows of hundreds of similar cases. I write to him inviting him to bring such cases to my notice, but I receive no reply. I note the cases of complaints recorded in Hansard and write to those who raise them, but I receive no acknowledgment of my letters. Usually, in such matters, I receive the utmost courtesy from honorable senators opposite, and I appreciate their courtesy very much. However, when I go to the trouble to investigate cases raised by certain honorable senators and inform them of the facts, I naturally expect some acknowledgment from those to whom I supply such information. Senator Amour has views of his own on repatriation. He is the one member of this Parliament who takes no pride in the service which he was able to render to this country some years ago; and the absence of such pride does not help him in dealing with people who not only have rendered good service to this country but also take a pride in what they did. I repeat that I made my statement this afternoon with a view to helping honorable senators. I have no doubt that the information I gave will prove helpful to them when our repatriation legislation comes under review.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Munitions Production in Australia - Extracts from confidential report made during visit to Australia by members of the British Ministry of Supply in January, 1941; together with Summary of Conclusions of Sir Alexander Roger, K.C.I. E., made during his visit to Australia in AprilMay, 1941.
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, dated 25th August,1941, on the applications made by the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, for Financial Assistance in 1941-42 from the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Constitution.
Customs Act - Proclamation, dated the 12th September, 1941, prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of -
Drugs and Chemicals, viz.: - Ether, sulphuric; Sulphanilamide; Sulpha- pyridine; and Sulphathiazole.
Miscellaneous - Aluminium paint; Charcoal; Cotton thread and yarn ; Films, used motion picture and other used photographic; Horsehair; Hose, rubber and woven canvas; Faints, lacquers, enamels, varnishes, thinners, containing any of the following: - Acetone, Butyl acetate, Ethyl acetate, Nitrocellulose; Rubber tyres and tubes; and Sisalkraft board.
Defence Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, Nos. 216, 218.
Land Tax Assessment Act - List of Applications for Relief dealt with during the year 1940-41.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Ballarat East, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Bankstown, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Coff’s Harbour, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Darwin, Northern Territory - For Department of Health purposes.
Gympie, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
National Security Act -
National Security (Housing of War Workers ) Regulations - Orders - Prescribed areas (2).
National Security (General ) Regulations - By-laws- Controlled areas.
Control of lights and traffic.
Prohibited places (2).
Prohibiting work on land.
Taking possession of land, &c. (93).
Use of land (17).
National Security (Statistics) Regula tions - Order - Collection of Statistics-
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, Nos. 207, 208, 209, 210, 212, 213, 214.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, Nos. 215, 217.
Peace Officers Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 204.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1941 -
No. 8- Juries.
No. 9 - Police Superannuation.
Senate adjourned at 5.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 September 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1941/19410917_senate_16_168/>.