16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs read the report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph to-day of a judgment given in Sydney yesterday, by the full bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, that all liquor prices fixed by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, are invalid? If so, what action does the Minister intend to- take? Does such judgment imply that publicans may serve liquor in whatever measures they like, and regard them as being standard measures?
– I have read the article referred to. The proceedings arose out of a prosecution under State legislation relating to weights and measures. During the hearing of the case, certain comments were made by the trial judge, and an investigation is now being made regarding the comments of the judge in order to ascertain their relevancy to Commonwealth regulations.
Comment by Judgefoster.
– I ask you, Mr. President, as the guardian of the rights of the Senate, whether you have read the following paragraph, reported in the Melbourne:Herald yesterday: - “ It isa tragedy that the work of thisboard has been frustrated by the Senate “,said Judge Foster to-day at the Women’s Employment Board sitting.
Judge Foster spoke, not asa judicial personage, but as the chairman of a board appointed under an act of this Parliament. Do you not consider, Mr. President, that the remark to which I have referred is grossly impertinent and an insult to this’ Parliament?
– I have not read the article referred to by the honorable senator, but I shall give consideration to the matter, and make a statement on the subject later.
– I draw the attention of the Leader of the Senate to the following report which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph to-day relating to this matter : -
Judge Foster said in the Women’s Employment Board yesterday thatit was “ little short of a tragedy “ that the work of the hoard had been frustrated and interfered with by recent Senate action. ‘ “After certain happening’s in Canberra, the board no longer has power to makeconmon rules, which greatly facilitated its work, and did no harm to any one he said. “The main purpose of the regulations was the relief, not only of employees, but also of employers, who, because of the common rule, were able to make one application instead of 10,000.”
What action has been taken by the Government to overcome the act of frustration by the Senate?
– I have not read the report to which the honorable senator has referred, but I can assure him that action will be taken with regard to it. I think that we can leave the matter until you, Mr. President, have had time to consider it and have made a statement on the subject.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform honorable senators of the grounds on which the Supreme Court of New South Wales upheld the appeal of Mr. Samuel Rosenwax, trading as “City Tailors “, Sydney, against the decision of the stipendiary magistrate at the Central Police Court who sentenced Rosenwax to six months’ imprisonment? Will the Minister state whether the ‘Commonwealth authorities intend to appeal against the Supreme Court’s decision? If not, what steps are being taken to deal with traders who offer to sell made-up clothing at excessive profit margins?
– A statement will be made on the matter to-morrow.
– In view of the misunderstanding, and in some cases dissatisfaction, that now exists with regard to the Commonwealth control of the production of potatoes, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make a statement sotting out clearly the conditions relating to the production and distribution of potatoes, both intra-state and interstate, so that growers may know the actual position, thus removing much of the present misunderstanding?
– I shall endeavour to accede to the request of the honorable senator.
– by leave - The Government has decided to waive the collection of customs and excise duties on Australian manufactured tobacco, cigarettes and cigarette papers distributed free of charge by the Australian Comforts Fund or other like organizations approved by the Minister for Trade and Customs, to members of the Australian forces stationed in the Darwin area. National security regulations will be issued to implement this decision, and the concession will operate on and from the date of the regulations. In order to prevent unauthorized trafficking in the articles mentioned certain safeguards will be prescribed. It is not proposed to extend the concession beyond the Darwin area.
Galvanized IRoN Supplies.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and
Shipping aware that considerable damage to property was caused by a cyclone which recently passed over a portion of Western Australia? Is he also aware that a considerable quantity of corrugated galvanized iron will he required in the locality affected for reconstruction purposes? As a shortage of corrugated galvanized iron is reported to have occurred in Western Australia, will be endeavour to have supplies made available for reconstruction purposes in that State?
– I am aware of the storm that occurred in the Avon Valley, and I took action last week to ensure that supplies of galvanized iron will be made available, as far as humanly possible, to the settlers in the districts concerned, and that the necessary shipping space will be .provided to enable the iron to be conveyed to that State.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) road a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 2160) on motion by Senator Cameron -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- It was my privilege to be a member of this chamber when the original repatriation legislation was brought before the Parliament. The discussion which has taken place on the bill now before us takes my memory back to the long discussions and the large volume of work associated with the original repatriation proposals. Those who have been responsible for the legislation nowbefore the Senate have had considerable advantages compared with the persons who prepared the original measure. At the outset, I pay a tribute to a very great man, who, as a representative of New South Wales in the Senate and the first Minister for Repatriation, was responsible for piloting the original measure through this chamber. I refer to the late Senator E. D. Millen. Of my present colleagues in the Senateonly two were then members of the Commonwealth Parliament. Senator Leckie who was at that time the representative of the division of Indi, and Senator Gibson, who represented Corangamite in the House of Representatives, will remember what an untiring worker Senator E. D. Millen was, and the time and effort that lie devoted to the original measure. The strain of that work was largely responsible for his health failing, and for his death earlier than might otherwise have been the case. I also pay a tribute to the work of Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Lockyer, who as public servants administered the original act. They had a difficult task to perform, as they were inaugurating legislation for which they had no precedent, whilst the measure itself was full of difficulties. Many of the anomalies which were revealed from time to time were removed in later years. Despite the criticism of the Repatriation Commission, I pay a tribute to that body also. The original repatriation legislation came under the direct control of the Minister in charge of the department, and whilst successive Ministers undoubtedly did their best, the number of cases which had to be dealt with soon made it evident that it would be impossible for all the work to be done by ministerial action. It was as the result of the close co-operation between the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and the government of the day that the commission was set up, and the handling of pensions transferred from ministerial control to the commission. From time to time, all honorable senators have received complaints from ex-soldiers who have not been satisfied with the amount of pensions allotted to them. However, the machinery which has been operated under the control of the commission since its establishment has worked extremely well. For a time I was Minister for Repatriation; and I regarded my occupancy of that office as a very high honour. In that capacity I attended numerous functions held under the auspices of the Returned Soldiers’ League. Time after time, at those meetings sincere tributes were paid to the commission for its work, and our repatriation machinery generally was favorably commented upon. It is quite easy to air individual complaints, and to note existing anomalies in the operation of that machinery. Nevertheless, wo have -every reason to be proud of our repatriation legislation, and the treatment which has been meted out to returned soldiers of the last war. To-day, we are glad that we are able to liberalize that legislation in the interests of, not only returned soldiers of the last war, but also the men who return from this war. I feel confident that every honorable senator will deal with this measure in a non-party spirit with the sole desire of doing his best for recipients of benefits under this legislation. ~No real distinction exists between the men who served in the last war and those who are serving in this war. All of them willingly risk even life itself in the defence of their country. Nothing that we can do can adequately repay men who lose their health through war service, or the dependants of those soldiers who lose their lives in combat. However, we can do our utmost to make this legislation the best that we can provide within the limits of the resources of this country. -I also pay tribute to the members of the special committee upon whose report this measure is based, and the members of the unofficial parliamentary committee of returned soldiers which dealt with this matter. The spirit and co-operation displayed by members of all parties in their work as members of those committees prompts one to ask why the same measure of co-operation cannot be secured between all parties in the Parliament when wo. are dealing with other subjects vitally affecting the interests of this country during the war. I suggest that we could approach many other measures with a greater measure of co-operation than was displayed in respect of certain legislation recently dealt with by the Parliament.
The bill provides for the appointment of two additional commissioners, increasing the personnel of the commission from three to five; and also for the appointment of assistant commissioners. I urge that the assistant commissioners should not be located at the head-quarters of the commission wherever they may bo situated. I also hope that the two additional commissioners to he appointed will be men who have had service in the present war, because the bulk of the commissioners’ work will deal mainly, if not almost exclusively, with the claims of men returning from the present war. Such appointments will give great satisfaction to members of the present Aus- tralian Imperial Force and the Militia Forces. I urge that one of the first two assistant commissioners to be appointed should be stationed between Brisbane and Sydney, and the other in Adelaide.
– -Why cannot the deputy commissioners in each State handle the work which it is proposed to appoint assistant commissioners to do?
– I do not know the reason for the appointment of assistant commissioners. However, if such officers be appointed, the opportunity should be taken to decentralize the work of the commission by stationing them in different States. Apparently, the status of the assistant commissioners will be below that of the commissioners, and higher than that of the deputy commissioners. Their appointment can be the means of decentralizing the administration of the commission, and, at the same time, can enable the commission to keep more closely in touch with repatriation work in the various States. The commission itself cannot be expected to be constantly on the move.
When I was Minister for Repatriation many complaints were made to me of delays on the part of the Assessment Tribunal in dealing with applications. The tribunal consists of a permanent chairman, and two doctors, who are co-opted in the particular State in which the tribunal is temporarily operating. Those doctors are paid a fee for each sitting day. I see no reaseon why it should not be possible to have an assessment tribunal operating in every State. It should not be necessary for one assessment tribunal, such as we have now, to travel around the whole country. In some of the less populous States, where it is not necessary to have a full-time duty, chairman, arrangements might be made whereby the chairman could operate on a basis somewhat similar to the doctors who form the assessment tribunal, that is, he could be engaged on a basis of sitting days. I had overlooked for the moment that the committee has recommended that proposal.
There are two other points to which reference has been made, although one of them does not come strictly within the ambit of the bill. I refer to land settlement in relation to repatriation. Judging by the criticism which has been levelled, some of it justly, at much of the land settlement carried out by various land-settlement boards in connexion with soldier settlement, one would imagine that in all cases returned soldier land settlement had been a gross failure. I know that there were many failures for various reasons. In some cases men who were not suitable for rural work desired to go onto the land in order to try something fresh. They were not accustomed to the work and became tired, and some, owing to their war injuries, were unable to. continue. . In too many other cases the land selected for settlement was quite unsuitable for the purpose, but it must be said in justice to the Commonwealth Government of the day that it had little or no control over the land selected. The selection was left entirely in the hands of the State governments or their hind-settlement boards. When the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) summoned a convention recently in Canberra for the purpose of securing from the States additional powers for the Commonwealth Government to deal with post-war reconstruction, it struck me that if there was one thing over which we should desire that the Commonwealth Parliament and Government should have more control it was the problem of land settlement. Certainly over the type of land selected and the areas to be allotted to returned soldiers Ave should have much more control than we had in those days when the selections were made by the various State authorities. There is, however, quite another side to soldier land settlement. I could take honorable senators to areas where it has been a great success. It depended, of course upon the places selected, but in the northern parts of Queensland, on the Atherton Tableland, where maize-growing has been carried on, many returned men have been remarkably successful. Many areas were opened up there, for the success of which soldier land settlement was entirely responsible. In certain sugar-growing areas, land was made available for soldier settlement, and the soldiers have done well. They were put on the right land and given a proper start. Although there were some failures, generally speaking there are quite a few areas in Australia where soldier land settlement lias ‘been a success. I hope that whichever party is on the treasury bench, when the time comes to consider this question it will not east aside altogether the possibility of land settlement. It should not look only at the failures which occurred previously, but for their causes, endeavour to remedy them, and pay a good deal of regard to the possibilities of land settlement in connexion with the repatriation of soldiers. On the last occasion on. which repatriation was being dealt with, too little consultation took place between the Government and those responsible in the areas selected, too little advice was taken from practical people who knew just what area of land was necessary to provide a good living, and too much was left to people who really did not know the productive capacity of the land. I could cite cases of failure ad nauseam, but nevertheless great assets have accrued to this country as the result of soldier land settlement, which I hope will play a prominent part in the rehabilitation of our soldiers in the postwar period.
Senator Brand has foreshadowed an amendment to provide for preference in employment to returned soldiers. This means a great deal to them. It is not based on their desire to oust somebody from a particular job. The whole principle upon which preference to returned soldiers is based is the fact that for n. period in their lives, very often the most important and critical period, these men have been taken away from the ordinary methods of earning their living. Many of the lads in. the. 9th Division whom we were so pleased to welcome back a few days ago were overseas from three to three and a half years. Many of them went away at the age of eighteen or nineteen, and three and a half years of the most valuable part of their lives have been devoted to soldiering, an occupation which will not be an asset to them when they have to earn their living. Many postponed or abandoned university careers and others had begun, as tradesmen or artisans, or had started commercial careers. All that has had to stand in abeyance for years. In view of the statement of the British Prime Minister that the war may la,; t for another two or three years, it looks as though by the time it is finished many men will have given five or six years of their lives to soldiering without any real opportunity to learn a trade or profession, because they have undertaken the important duty of defending their country. Preference therefore should be given to them by whatever government is in power regardless of politics, because it will give them the opportunity, which has been previously denied to them, of meeting on something like level terms the men who did not go abroad. That is al] that preference to soldiers means. I may be asked : What about men who have been engaged in munitions production or doing other war work? I admit that they ave working long hours and doing good work, hut they are still engaged in their trades, or doing a job that will be useful to them when the war is over. Some of them would undoubtedly have liked the opportunity to enlist in the fighting forces, but were prevented from doing so; but they have not been following a different avocation, as the soldier has been. They have been allowed to carry on some normal form of work which has provided them with an education and a means to earn their livelihood afterwards. The soldier has on the other hand been taken into the Army in the tender years of his life, and kept there. He comes back and has to start almost de novo in whatever trade or profession he desires to follow. There should, therefore, be no hesitation on the part of Commonwealth and State governments and all private employers in giving preference. For that reason I hope that the Government will accept Senator Brand’s amendment. Itis non-political, and he has no desire to embarrass the Government. The only purpose is to ensure to the men whom we were so ready to praise as defenders of their country, that they will have an equal opportunity with the men who did not join a fighting service. The men who are fighting for us to-day are doing a magnificent job and making great sacrifices, and I hope that the Government will see its way clear to insert in this measure provision granting preference to returned soldiers. That would be a gesture indicating that Australia is determined that so far as possible to do everything for its fighting nien when the war is won. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and all other associations of ex-service men have always stressed the necessity for the granting of preference to returned men, not in order that people who at present are in jobs may be ousted from them, but so that where returned men are capable of doing the job, they shall be given preference. All we ask is that preference to returned men be given unstintedly by governments and private employers to ensure that, when the war is over, our soldiers, . sailors and airmen will be able to start at least on equal terms with the men who have remained at home. I hope that the measure will have a speedy passage. I am proud to have an opportunity, for a second time to support a measure of this kind. I am confident that this legislation will do much to benefit the men who are doing so much for Australia at present, and the wives, children and other dependants who have had the misfortune to lose their bread-winners. -11:0. it will improve the conditions of those unfortunate men who may lose their limbs, eyesight, or health in the course of their war service. I trust that this conflict will be brought to a speedy conclusion so that those who are fighting our battles in our near north and in other parts of the world may return to their loved ones and world peace may be restored.
– I congratulate Senator Collett upon the lucid and capable manner in which he acclaimed the principal provisions of this measure. I recall what happened in Tasmania in connexion with soldier settlemen schemes after the last war. Unfortunately, a sound scheme propounded by Mr. William Schoobridge, a man who had spent a lifetime on the land and who knew agricultural problems well, was rejected. Mr. Schoobridge suggested that laud should be made available in central Tasmania for sugar-beet growing. There was ample hydro-electric power in close proximity to the proposed areas, and it was hoped that a new industry could be established. As I have said, the plan was rejected, and the government representatives went all over the State offering such high prices for land that farmers were only too willing to sell their properties and live on the proceeds. Such indiscriminate buying pi aped heavy capital charges upon the soldier settlers which they could not meet. .Senator Herbert Hays referred to the difficulties asso’ciated with the placing of returned men on the land. No doubt there are many difficulties; the tens of thousands of young men who will return to civil life when the war is over will include large numbers of farmers and farm employees who will wish to resume their former occupations, lt is essential that they be given suitable land in order that they will have a chance of making a success of their venture. Many failures- in the past were due to the entirely unsuitable areas upon which returned soldiers were settled. I do not know what system the Repatriation Commission followed in purchasing the land, but it seemed that those men whose task it was to make the purchases were prepares.! to pay almost anything.
– The commission had nothing whatever to do with the buying of the land. That was the responsibility of the State governments.
– Whoever was responsible for purchasing the land apparently knew little about its productivity. I remember the scheme quite well. One of the most serious problems confronting this country to-day is that of growing sufficient food in the next few years to feed the starving population of Europe. Instead, of restricting wheat production, it would have been far better had previous governments devoted their energies to the construction of more silos in which surplus wheat could be- stored. In properly constructed silo3, vacuum sealed, and free from weevils, wheat will keep almost indefinitely. I remember reading that in Egypt wheat 2,000 or 3,000 years old had been discovered in sealed stores, and when planted it germinated almost immediately. That shows that if wheat is properly stored, it will not deteriorate.
I consider that the appointment of an additional two commissioners i3 advisable: The Repatriation Commission, will be called upon to deal with a far greater number of men than was the case after the last war. I agree with Senator Wilson that our fighting men should not be discharged from the forces until jobs can be provided for them. Surely, if we can afford to pay our soldiers, sailors and airmen while the war is in progress, it is not too much, to ask that their services should be retained until it is certain that they will be able to earn a living. Of course, the die-hards will, ask as usual, “ Where is the money to come from? “ Apparently they do not realize that money does not matter to-day; and that only mcn and materials really count. There are many vast construction schemes which could bc undertaken after the war to provide employment for our servicemen. For instance, there is an unprecedented shortage of houses. Also, the designer “of the Sydney Harbour bridge, Dr. Bradfield, has plans for a project m Queensland which, would absorb thousands of men. It would cost many millions of ‘pounds, but it would bring under cultivation many hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile land, on which almost anything can be grown.
– Where are markets to be found for the produce?
– Are we not importing thousands of tons of cotton today, when, as has been proved over the past ten years, cotton can be grown in Queensland? That State is already producing cotton by methods which in Egypt yield the best cotton in the world. Any one who examines the economics of such a scheme must be convinced of its practicability, but I find it hard to got honorable senators opposite like Senator Gibson to pay any attention to economies. They are talking of putting -our returned soldiers on the land, but if they examined the economics of such a proposition they would find- that, although it is quite easy to grow a hundred bushels of wheat or a ton of potatoes, it is impossible to grow the money to pay for those commodities. That has been the trouble with -such schemes in the past. When I said in this chamber last week that in the depression years the price of wheat had gone down to 2s. a bushel, Senator Latham interjected that it had gone down to ls. a bushel, because world parity was ls. a bushel. However, he did not explain what had reduced the price of wheat in Canada - one of the biggest wheat-producing countries of the world - from a dollar to 30 cents a bushel. To-day there is a threatening shortage of foodstuffs in the United States of America, and Canadian wheat will go to that country instead of to starving Europe. I repeat that we should build more silos and build up our wheat storage so that we will have large quantities to export after the war. Once again, it is the economics of the situation that should be examined. Prices are determined by the amount of purchasing power that is in the hands of the community. The banks arc able to call up that purchasing power whenever they like. They did that in 1929-30 and so ruined hundreds of primary producers. When I say that I am expressing not only my own opinion but also that of leading economists. Too few primary producers have made a study of the economics of the industries in which they are engaged. It is all very well to put soldiers on productive land where good crops can be produced, but until we change our monetary system these men will have no control over the return that they get for their products. That is a problem that the commission must study.
I believe also in preference to returned soldiers, although I admit that nothing we can do will repay them adequately for what they have done for us overseas. After the last war, legislation providing for preference to returned soldiers was enacted, but only too often returned men were passed over when appointments to good jobs were being made. This time we will have to see that preference to returned soldiers is enforced. Private employers should be made to realize how much we owe to the men who are lucky enough to survive this conflict. I saw members of the 9th Division of the Australian Imperial Force returning to Tasmania, and I regretted that no provision had been made at Hobart to motor them to their homes. I noticed many of them carrying their swags uphill to the suburbs where they resided. Being a member of the Automobile Club of Tasmania I suggested that members should be invited to provide cars for the transport of the soldiers to their homes when others return. I used my own car for this purpose, and induced a number of other members of the club to do likewise. I consider that the act, as proposed to be amended by this bill, will meet all requirements with regard to repatriation, if its provisions are applied judiciously, scientifically and faithfully. I shall support the bill in its entirety.
– I have pleasure in supporting the bill. The fact that it has been presented to. Parliament prior to the cessation of hostilities will give encouragement to the men and women now in the field, because they will have an opportunity, before the conclusion of the war, to ascertain the conditions relating to repatriation that will obtain after the war. The provisions, of this measure are largely the result of a careful and extensive investigation by a non-party parliamentary committee of ex-servicemen. That fact shows that political differences can be entirely eliminated in dealing with this important matter. The bill is a non-party measure, and the debate shows that honorable senators regard it in that light. Repatriation administration in the past has been divorced from party politics, and that, I think, is one of the reasons why .the work of the Repatriation Commission has been highly successful. Some people have complained that wrong decisions have been given by the commission, but ex-servicemen generally have praised its work, which has been carried out by a process of trial and error.
At the end of the last war, Australia was confronted with the problem of the repatriation of many thousands of soldiers and large numbers of nurses, and the present generation of service men and women will be able to benefit from the experience gained by the repatriation authorities during the last 25 years. At the conclusion of the last war, medical history sheets were not so complete as at present, and pre-enlistment medical (.-^-animations were not so thorough as those carried out in connexion with the present war. Many of the returned soldiers had been away from Australia for from two to four years, and their chief desire was to obtain their discharge from the Army aud return to civil life. Many of them took their discharge under the impression that their state of health was good, but after many years they discovered that they were suffering from disabilities which had been caused or aggravated by war service. They had difficulty in inducing the repatriation authorities to recognize their claims to a war pension, but after the establishment of the Repatriation Commission that difficulty was largely overcome. One of the main objections to the system has been the fact that the onus of proof that a soldier’s disabilities were due to war service has been placed on the soldier himself. In many instances men have been put to considerable expense in getting into touch with medical men, and with those who served in their units with them, in order to substantiate their claims to pensions. I am glad that under this bill the onus of proof is to rest upon the body entrusted with the task of determining claims. That will be of valuable assistance to many men who have had much difficulty in the past in substantiating their claims. Honorable senators will, no doubt, agree that as time passes it will be found from experience- that the repatriation law, even as proposed to be amended by this bill, will need further amendment. In my opinion, the Repatriation Department should do more to rehabilitate incapacitated soldiers after their return to Australia. Looking back over the past 25 years, I am forced to the conclusion that that aspect of the department’s activities has not been given the consideration that it deserves. During the period that men or women are serving with the forces their economic position is fairly secure, even though their personal safety is endangered. It can be said, however, that they have not to worry much about their job, or about their food and clothing. Over a period of years that sense of security in regard to such matters must affect their outlook, especially if, as is happening in thousands of cases at present, they join the forces at an early age, say, between 18 and 25 years of age. Such persons have not previously had the responsibility of providing for their own’ economic security, but on their discharge they will have to do so. In many instances, that change will come as a shock to them. I realize that my statement that members of the forces are not concerned greatly about their food and clothing has only a general application, because some members of the forces, as, for instance, our gallant men in Timor, have no economic security at all. The Repatriation Department could with advantage co-operate more closely with the Department of Social Services, in order to make certain that no man shall be discharged from the forces without adequate provision being made for his absorption into the economic life of the community. That is particularly necessary in respect of incapacitated servicemen. I remember well that when I was in hospital after the last war I received some literature indicating what avenues of employment would be opened for incapacitated soldiers. Nothing made a greater impression on my mind than one pamphlet which stated that a member of the forces who had lost a leg or an arm would be provided with employment as a caretaker or a lift attendant. The idea underlying the dissemination of that information was probably quite good; but to me, as a young man with some ambition, the prospect of spending the remainder of my life as a caretaker or lift attendant was not encouraging. Men who are badly injured, or have lost a limb, need some psychological treatment, so that they will realize that they can still render useful service to the community and become successful citizens. The granting of a pension should not be the end of the responsibility of the department; it should be followed by action which will restore confidence, so that the man will be able to face the future with courage and cheerfulness.
– The attitude of the department is more sympathetic to-day.
– The position has improved greatly. Badly injured men are now encouraged to expect something better than lift work for the remainder of their working days. During the past 25 years we have improved on the system, of trial and error, but I still believe that there is room for better psychological treatment of certain cases than exists to-day. A man who has been badly knocked about and is suffering from a realization of the loss that he has sustained, should be encouraged to overcome his nervousness and to believe that by the exercise of his personality and talents he can still render useful service to the community. Greater efforts in that direction could be made. The Department of Social Security is dealing, to an increasing degree, with matters of economic security, and by co-operating more closely with it, the Repatriation Department can prevent a repetition of the conditions which aroused hard, bitter feelings in the hearts of many returned soldiers after the last war. Something has been said regarding the failure of many soldier settlement schemes which were embarked upon after the last war. I hope that as many as possible of the men who return from this Avar will go on the land. It is essential that we develop our millions of acres to the greatest possible degree. Special facilities should be provided to returned soldiers of this Avar to take’ up land, and to ensure that as settlers they will not be denied the amenities enjoyed by residents in our large cities. The determination of domestic land policy, in connexion with such schemes, should be left to the States, because the States will be in close con tact ‘with the men who take up land, and are acquainted with the varying conditions prevailing in different localities. If the administration of soldier settlement schemes were left entirely to the Commonwealth Government many mistakes, perhaps, would be made on the part of the central administration, because of lack of knowledge of varying conditions in localities where the settlements arc made. We shall get the best return for any expenditure in this direction if Ave leave the handling of actual land policy to the States. The Commonwealth could do its share by financing these schemes, and by exercising a measure of super vision sufficient to ensure that each settlement generally is adequately provided for.
– The States controlled soldier land settlement after the last
Avar and made some serious mistakes.
– That is so; but they also achieved many outstanding successes. The determination of domestic land policy should be left entirely to the States. The general provisions of the bill have been amply dealt with by Senator Collett. I trust that the measure will be given a speedy passage, and that the benefits which it provides will be made available as soon as possible to those in whose interests this legislation is being enacted.
– I do not intend to speak at great, length on the measure, because all of us agree that the bill is splendid. I congratulate the Government, and particularly the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), on its introduction, and also the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) on his second-reading speech on the measure. Although the Government has been in office for only eighteen mouths, it has done very much good work. By introducing this bill it has earned the commendation of thousands of people, as well as practically all soldiers’ organizations. Honorable senators opposite have given it their blessing. However, I noted a .certain amount of asperity in the remarks of one or two. honorable senators, who, apparently, could not refrain from giving honorable senators on this side a slight “ dig “. At, the time I was reminded of Uriah Heep. The Government acted wisely in appointing the special committee to investigate our repatriation legislation. That committee consisted entirely of returned soldiers. It has done a good job, in spite of the campaign conducted by the “stunt” press, particularly in Sydney, in support of an increase of 50 per -cent, of the rates of pensions in opposition to the committee’s recommendation of an increase of 20 per cent. As several honorable senators opposite have pointed out, the great majority of recipients of Avar pensions will be employed in civil occupations. Many people are not aware of that fact. They are prone to think that all war pensioners depend entirely on their pensions. The granting of war pensions in respect of war injuries, regardless of economic status of applicants, is an excellent principle. I should like to see it applied in respect of our pensions legislation generally. The Labour party has been attacked because it advocates the granting of pensions to our aged industrial soldiers. Such assistance has been described as a sop to profligacy, and, it has been contended, tends to destroy the morale of recipients. Honorable senators on this side have always contended that a pension should be. paid to the industrial soldier as a right, and not as charity. Consequently, we support the same principle with respect to pensions for the military soldier. Honorable senators opposite accept the principle in the latter case; hut I should like to see it applied in respect of our pension legislation generally. The rates of pensions to be provided under this measure were detailed by the Minister in charge of the bill in his secondreading speech. 1 should like to mention the following examples: A blind soldier with a wife and two children will receive £9 14s. a week ; a soldier, totally and permanently incapacitated, with a wife and three children will receive £S 2s. 6d. a week; a soldier. 100 per cent, incapacitated, and unable temporarily to engage in any occupation, with a wife and three children, will receive £6 13s. a week; and a single soldier, totally and permanently incapacitated, will receive £4 16s.. a week. Those pension rates compare more than favorably with those paid in any other part of the world, and, after all, Australia is only a small community, the population of which is about equal to that of greater London or greater New York. I rose principally to emphasize that we must approach these problems from a different angle than in the past. I see no hope for repatriation, which I believe will be a failure, unless we approach our economic problems with new conceptions and, as I say, from a new angle. For instance, we have been trying as a Government to obtain full and complete control over unemployment. A constitutional convention was recently held and attended by Premiers and Ministers from ali over Australia. A bill was drafted and placed before the Parliaments of the different States, but we find to-day that several of the States have denied the Commonwealth Government . power to deal with unemployment! If our repatriation schemes are not going to fall by the way the Commonwealth Government must have that complete control of unemployment. If those people who talk so glibly of our soldiers, and pay lip service to their loyalty, did the right thing, they would hasten to see that this or any other government that occupies the treasury bench in the Commonwealth Parlia-ment shall have that control which is so essential for the well-being of our returned soldiers. We cannot possibly go back to the old days. We cannot meet the circumstances of to-day with the methods of 1914-18 and the years following. So far as the economic side of the question is concerned we must bear in mind that the Army of Australia is treble that of the last war. In addition, the number of people engaged in war production has been more than trebled. Practically the whole of our people are engaged in war and war production, so that the problem is entirely different from that of 1914-18 or, if not entirely different, it is at least greatly intensified. I heard Senator Gibson interject when Senator Darcey was speaking, “Where are the markets to be found for the produce?” That showed me clearly .that Senator Gibson, with others of the Opposition side, is looking at this problem exactly as it .was in 1914-18. Like the Bourbons, honorable senators opposite learn nothing and forget nothing. AH of us on this side of the chamber admit that we must approach this problem from the. point of view of national organization. We know that in the various countries engaged in war the people have been thrown back upon their own resources to produce materials which otherwise they would have obtained from overseas. As the result of the torpedoing of merchant ships and of other effects of the war, many European countries have been compelled to produce goods which used to be obtained elsewhere. We in Australia have been thrown on to our own resources with the result that economic nationalism has become more than ever intensified. Prior to the war the conditions of nations producing their own commodities and no longer relying on those of other nations were already a world-wide problem. If that was true before the war how much more so is it now when so many countries are compelled to look more and more to their own resources ? That means that there will be a totally different outlook and a different economic relationship between countries and within each country. Any wise government knowing this will look ahead and resolve to meet the problem differently, because the problem is different. If we rely upon old methods I can see thousands of returned soldiers walking the streets of this country looking for employment, as hundreds did after the last war. None was more interested than I in listening to the story of Senator Amour, who told us his actual experience of the treatment meted out to returned men. His was the case of only one of several thousand men who were thrown on to the bread-line. I and every other honorable senator have had these men calling on us, and trying to make a living by selling bootlaces and other things. Only recently one man came to my home who was actually palsied. Every bone in his body was shaking.” He was trying to make a living by selling goods which his wife and his children had made. We do not want a repetition of that sort of thing, but we shall see it unless bur various governments, in their efforts at reconstruction, bear in mind that it is essential to have not merely private enterprise but national cooperative economic organization. Much has been said about putting returned soldiers on to the land. I have a knowledge of what was done in Australia and particularly in Queensland after the last war. I know that in one part dozens went on the land, and to-day I do not think one returned soldier can be found there. They have also left another area which was used for growing sugar-cane, and the farms are in the hands of men who were not born in Australia. Some honorable senators say : “ When the soldiers come back we will place them on the land and find them jobs,” but at the same time they want to go back to the old system of competition and private enterprise. My tour of north Queensland, where I witnessed the splendid work done by members of the Civil Constructional Corps of the Allied Works Council with modern machinery, convinced mc that after the war we must carry on in the same way in order to perform the operations which are essential for our economic well-being. In other words, we must discard tha policy of giving the soldier a small block of land and a few pounds and leaving him to his own resources, after he has been debilitated by the horrors of war. We heard to-day and yesterday of the effects of war upon the mentality of these men. They have been taken from industry and forced to carry on a fierce struggle against fellow human beings, blowing and blasting one another out of existence. When they come back some narrow-minded people think they have done enough by giving them a block of land and a few shillings. The idea is absurd. A soldier who enters the Army becomes the comrade of others ; he is with them 24 hours of the day, and there is developed among them a psychology that cannot possibly be created in ordinary peace-time avocations. There is’ a sincerity and a real comradeship which we should know how to utilize when they come back to civil life after the war. The spirit of comradeship that has been developed among them should be developed intelligently in the field of peaceful economic activity. With modern machinery such as is used by the Civil Constructional Corps to build roads and aerodromes, and to tear down forests, and with a high development of that social spirit which has grown up among the soldiers, we could use them as an industrial army in peace-time, giving them all theamenities possible to enable them to carry on the economic work of Australia. Let us got away from this stupid idea of putting a few men here and a few men there; let us look upon those who will return to civil life as industrial soldiers, and let us use them in an organized manner to do the essential work of the community. I visualize the time, when this Avar is over - perhaps before it is over - when this nation, through its elected representatives, will control fully and completely the economic resources of Australia, and when the financial machine will bo the servant of the people. In that regard I endorse much that Senator Darcey has said. Senator Cooper and Senator “Wilson - one a returned soldier of the last war, and the other a returned soldier of this war - have both said that finance is a secondary consideration. They are merely saying what is being said by thousands of our soldiers who have been overseas, and who hope, eventually, to settle down in their peace-time occupations, namely, that finance must no longer be used to increase the power of a few, but to improve and increase our productive capacity so that all individuals in the community shall have the best that Australia can offer. That also is my view. 1 am with every man who wishes to see in the economic life of this country that cohesion and unity which is so essential to win the war, preserved after the war, in order that we may win the peace. In that regard there will be crass failure if honorable senators opposite gain control of the treasury bench, and seek to put into operation the archaic ideas that have proved so “disastrous in the past. I deplore most sincerely the political activity of certain people who are making use of this war to drive a wedge between the industrial soldier and the military soldier. We should endeavour always to bring them together, because their closest co-operation is necessary if we are to achieve success in the post-war period. We shall not be able to win the peace if that wedge is driven too far. It will be a tragedy if, in the post-war years, we find that the men who have fought for their country are engaged in an economic struggle with those who have worked so well on the home front.
-Does the honorable senator think that industrial soldiers should be given the same consideration as the fighting man?
– I shall speak frankly because at my stage of life I hare no time for political humbug or bluff.
– Then come over to this side of the chamber.
– No, there is too much political humbug among honorable senators opposite. I am well aware of the subterranean manoeuvring which is going on in an effort to destroy this Government. Preference to returned soldiers is being used as a cover for such activities. The time for plain speaking has arrived, and I say without hestitation that those who to-*day are responsible for political intrigue will be swept aside by the men who come back from the front. The ex-serviceman will have little respect for those who have sought to exploit them, and whom they know will cast them aside when their purpose has been served. ‘ Speaking as a man who views the situation only in the’ interests of his country, I say in reply to Senator Wilson that the soldier who goes to fight in the jungle of New Guinea is worthy of a-t least the same economic standards as those which I enjoy. As I have said before in this chamber all my life I have never received a penny in interest. All I ask from my country is a reasonable living standard, and I see no reason why the same standard should not be enjoyed by those men who are willing to lay down their lives in order that Ave who remain behind may live under normal conditions. It is easy enough for honorable senators opposite to endeavour to submerge political issues on legislation such as this dealing with the treatment of our returned soldiers and their dependants, but their attitude will be different when, the economic security of the capitalist class which they represent is threatened, and an organized effort is made by returned men to own and control the country for which they have fought. Whilst I like to see legistion such as this debated without poll.tical bias, I am not a fool; I know that as soon as the security of our existing financial institutions is jeopardized, .honorable senators opposite will have a different story to tell. We shall know then who are with the soldiers, and who are with those who would exploit them.
On the question of preference to returned soldiers, I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Amour that while many people will be prepared to say to the exservice man, “ We have a job for you, here is your pick and shovel”, when the good jobs are going in the community, returned men will be passed over as was the case after the last war. Senator Amour drew attention to the fact that when a secretary of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney was required after the last war a returned soldier was not appointed. I could quote many other similar instances m which preference to returned soldiers has been thrust into the background when good jobs have been offering. Let us make our views quite plain upon this matter : I understand that a special measure is to be introduced to deal with this matter. I agree that the Government which controls the finance of this country should see that the men who return from this war .physically or mentally affected are given all possible care. We should be recreant to the trust, that the people have reposed in their elected representatives if we denied to any man or woman - there are many women serving in our fighting forces to-day - who returned injured, adequate consideration and attention. We are all agreed upon that ; but I hate to think that the time may come when the men who served in this war will be thrown into the industrial pit, and will have ‘ to struggle with one another to get out of it. Our returned soldiers must not be thrown on the industrial scrap heap. There should not he a struggle for jobs on the part of the heroes of this war. The economic forces of this country must be organized on national lines, so that instead of a job struggle there will be an overwhelming number of jobs, as there is to-day, for those available to take them. While the war continues we shall have a man-power problem, and it is so acute to-day that we find it necessary to take girls and married women from their ‘homes in order to participate in the war effort. I may be lacking in prescience. I may bc only an ordinary working man who has become a member of this Senate, but I have sufficient intellect to foresee that after the war society must be so organized on an economic basis that there will be no lack of work for every man and Woman in the community. This country, having regard to its population, has done one of the greatest jobs in thi3 war. We have so organized the community that we have done what would have been regarded a few years ago as impossible. I have visited factories in the cities. I have seen civilians at work in the wilds of the Northern Territory and north. Queensland. I have seen men doing a wonderful job, and glad to do it. We should be proud of them, as we are proud of our soldiers. I am sure that those men are thinking that when the war is over the whole of the resources of this country should be organized, in the interests, not of financial or industrial exploiters, but of every man, woman and child in the community. Our repatriation efforts will ‘be successful if our economic resources are organized for peace with the same thoroughness as they have been marshalled for war.
.- This bill is. designed for the benefit of the greatest fighting men the world has ever seen. We are familiar with their . valiant deeds in many parts of the world. Wo recall what they have done in Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies, the Middle East, Syria, Greece and Crete, and we know what they are doing in New Guinea at present. Members of the Royal Australian Air Force are serving in Great Britain, in northern Australia, and elsewhere, whilst our naval men are operating in practically all theatres of war. Unfortunately these forces suffer casualties. To the broken’ men the nation cherishes a gratitude to which the Government can best give expression in this bill, and if the measure is to err at all, it should err on the side of sympathy and generosity. The people of Australia accept that as their proud responsibility and expect that their duty to these men will be honorably discharged. The people have given an inspiration to members of this Parliament and to those entrusted with the administration of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The nation’3 will is that the members of the naval, air and land forces who suffer as a result of War service shall submit claims to the repatriation authorities, and shall, within the limits of the country’s capacity, be given the maximum pension which can be provided. Broadly viewed, Australia has little cause for self-reproach with respect to its repatriation activities. There have been cases which have undoubtedly caused heart burning on the part of discharged soldiers, but we must take into consideration the general operation of the act, which has been referred to in laudatory terms by the president of the Victorian branch of the returned soldiers’ organization in these words -
It stands as the soundest in the world and is based on a fair and full examination of the position.
I was a member of the special committee which was appointed by the Government to make recommendations as to the provisions to be incorporated in this bill. With our worthy colleague, Senator Collett, I sat for many days in Melbourne and elsewhere considering what should be done to give the maximum measure of generosity to discharged service men and women. We had to consider what was a fair financial responsibility for the Government to accept, what would be a fair recompense to the discharged men and women and how much the country could afford in the present circumstances in the form of capital expenditure on repatriation. I desire to place on record the names of the witnesses who gave evidence before the special committee. They were specially invited to appear before the committee because of their wide knowledge regarding repatriation matters. The witnesses were as follows : -
Sir Gilbert Dyett, federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
Webster, acting chairman, Repatriation Commission.
Edward Brown, deputy federal president of the Commonwealth Council of the Limbless Soldiers’ Association.
Charles Laraghy, federal secretary, Limbless Soldiers’ Association.
G. D. Medley, Vice-Chancellor, Melbourne University.
J. Lynch, president, Australian Blinded Soldiers’ Association.
Major-General S.R. Bueston, DirectorGeneral of Medical Services, Allied Command Head-quarters.
Colonel W. Evans, Assistant DirectorGeneral of Medical Services, Allied Command Head-quarters.
Air-Commodore T. E. Hurley, DirectorGeneral of Medical Services, Royal Australian Air Force.
Surgeon-Captain W. J. Carr, Director of Medical Services, Royal Australian Navy.
Dr. K. Smith, principal medical officer, Repatriation Commission.
H.A. Winnecke, Director of Personal Services, Royal Australian Air Force.
Brigadier R. C. Prisk, Officer in Charge of Personal Services, Army Head-quarters.
Squadron-Leader C. Gordon, Chief Rehabilitation Officer, Royal Australian Air Force.
In addition, the committee wrote to every member of this Parliament asking him to “submit his views on repatriation matters. It also invited the State branches of the returned soldiers’ organization to submit in writing any evidence which they cared to give. It also dealt with a large number of individual cases and submitted them to the Repatriation Commission for examination. The answers of the Repatriation Commission were considered by the committee when drafting its report.
I have here a tabulated statement of the Government’s decisions on the recommendations of the committee. The first big problem tackled by the committee was the basis of eligibility for pensions. The Minister has explained that the basis set out in the bill is more liberal than it was in respect of the pensions paid as a result of the 1914-18 war. Generally, the basis recommended by the committee has been accepted; the increase of pensions by 20 per cent., as recommended by the committee, has been approved by the Government. Only one organization of returned soldiers in
Australia submitted a claim for an increase in excess of 18 per cent. I understand that the Victorian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia asked that the pension should be increased by 23 per cent. I submit that an increase of 20 per cent, is fairly generous. The committee recommended that a 20 per cent, increase should apply to all pensions, but the Government has made the increase 8s. a week in every case. In some instances a 20 per cent, increase would have meant an increase of 12s. a week. The increase of 20 per cent, is not related to any increase of the cost of living. A3 the Minister mentioned in his secondreading speech, I believe that a pension should be given as some compensation for war disability, and should have no relation to the cost of living. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said -
The assessment of war pension general rates 19 made purely in respect of the degree of “ war damage “ to the individual, regardless of his economic position. The term “ war damage “ includes such factors as physical or mental incapacity; pain and discomfort ; a lower standard of health; inability to participate in normal recreations, and so on. Consideration “is also given to the extent to which the member is restricted by his war-caused disabilities from engaging in employment in the general labour market; the wider the range of restriction, the greater the disability. It may be said that the soldier is compared, from the physical stand-point, with a- normal healthy individual of the same age.
That sets out the position clearly. In my opinion, it would be a sad day for the returned soldier should war pensions be based on the cost of living, or should there be any departure from the basis of assessment set out in the bill.
In respect of the children of widows of service men, the Government has agreed to higher rates than were recommended by the committee. The rates agreed to are generous, and I congratulate the Government on its decision. The committee recommended a flat rate of 12s. 6d. for the children of widows, but the Government has increased the amount to 17s. 6d. for the first child and 12s. 6d. for each subsequent child. I regard the rates as generous, and I congratulate the Government on its decision.
Another matter which has caused a great deal of concern to discharged soldiers relates to pensions temporarily re- linquished when a higher income is received. Under the present act he may receive only three months’ back pay should he again claim his pension. The committee recommended that back pay should be allowed for a period of six months. In my opinion even that period is not sufficient. A case which came to my notice recently concerned a man who surrendered hia pension because ho “was in receipt of a higher remuneration and did not think that he should claim his pension. However, he again became ill and he claimed his pension, but he received only three months’ back pay. In such circumstances, back pay for six months is little enough.
The limit of eligibility of wives and children of members of the forces engaged in the present war has been fixed, at fifteen years in accordance with the recommendation of the’ committee. I think that that basis is sufficiently generous, but if necessary the time could be extended, as was done by a special act of Parliament after the last war. The committee also made the recommendation which will put matters associated with the Entitlements Appeal Tribunal on a better basis. Its recommendation in relation to medical expenses of successful appellants to the Entitlement Appeal Tribunal was that such expenses should be paid. I understand, that the Government has agreed to that recommendation.
Like Senator Poll, I believe that a chairman should be appointed to the Assessment Appeal Tribunal in each State, but I understand that the Minister has given an assurance that, should the circumstances warrant it, an extra chairman will be appointed and that special attention will be given to appeals which come before the Assessment Appeal Tribunal.
Another important recommendation of the committee which has been accepted by the Government relates to the onus of proof, which has now been transferred from the appellant to the Repatriation Commission. That alters the whole basis of the act, and makes the legisla-tion much more satisfactory.
I congratulate the Government on the consideration shown to ex-servicemen suffering from tuberculosis as the result of service in. either the war of 1914-18 or this war. The committee recommended that the act be amended to provide that special boards consisting of specialists in tuberculosis be set up in each State to examine any claimant or appellant. In my opinion, that is absolutely necessary. I regard the Government’s treatment of tubercular soldiers as generous. The act provides that any member of the forces who contracts tuberculosis will be regarded as suffering from a war disability. In this connexion, the Minister said -
I would refer particularly to the provision in the bill for acceptance of full responsibility in the case of a member who served in a theatre of war and who becomes incapacitated or dies from tuberculosis at any time after his discharge from the forces. This means that on application both the member and his dependants will be eligible for maximum benefits under the act ami regulations, as if the incapacity or death resulted from an occurrence during service.
There was some conflict of opinion among members of the committee as to whether men suffering from tuberculosis should be given an “ open go “, or whether each case be diagnosed and accepted by the medical board. Eventually a compromise was arrived at. I believe that a special board to deal with tubercular cases is necessary. The committee had before it a report from Canada in which it was stated that Dr. Stewart had examined 100 cases of tuberculosis and had arrived at certain definite conclusions. The report definitely proved that the cause of and date of commencement of tuberculosis can be ascertained. With that information available, .the nature of the treatment can more easily be decided. I shall now read two extracts from the report which proves the necessity for establishing a board of specialists to investigate and treat cases of tuberculosis -
After spending half a life-time in reconstructing the tuberculosis life-histories of thousands of ordinary people from significant incidents, chains of events, family and contact and personal histories, general physical makeup, known present progress toward better or worse, and from the almost geological strata of X-ray films, and having had corroborations in thousands of cases by after-events, we have no difficulty in having such reconstructions accepted as essentially correct by experienced groups of physicians, and no objection raised to making these the bases,. for varying treatment and prognosis. . ‘.’ .
There are many points about a tuberculous man and his history which help us to determine how long the disease has been present, but whatever else we may do we must never fail to look at the X-ray films. Films do not carry, cryptic signs that can be translated into exact dates, but tuberculous disease docs leave its marks of a.ge, somewhat as world upheavals have left their records in the rocks; diseased tissues become fibrous, thick and tough, they cavitate; or stony deposits of calcium accumulate; and all these changes cast shadows that are. distinctive in extent, arrangement and density.
In the X-ray films of the 100 cases studied, evidence of chronicity, as shown by fibrosis and classification, were marked in fifteen, moderate in 50, slight in 22 and absent in seven. It is true that processes which leave X-ray shadows may be more rapid in some than in others, yet when all that is known of the present disease is studied, the scattering bits of history, the resistance or lack of resistance, the physical signs and the X-ray films, and especially when these can be compared over a considerable time, the duration of disease can be judged quite closely enough for any ordinary purpose.
As I said earlier, I am glad that the Government has decided to give the benefit of the doubt to applicants. However, I am still of opinion that in the interests of the nation and of the soldiers themselves, a board of tuberculosis specialists should be constituted to examine and treat over a certain period all cases com-‘ ing before the commission.
The recommend a.tion made by the special committee for the payment of service pensions has been adopted. The living allowance to members of the. forces who are temporarily incapacitated is to be increased from £1 to £1 4s. a week for married men, whilst an allowance of los. is to bc granted to single men. The latter amount is less than .the allowance recommended by the special committee, namely, 18s. The special committee also gave consideration to the provision of living allowances for certain classes of dependants, and such matters as medical sustenance while an applicant is undergoing treatment, the admission of proof of statements made by applicants, the increase of the personnel of the commission from three to five, the extension of rights under the Commonwealth Public Service Act and regulations to commissioners and officers of the commission, medical benefits for soldiers and dependants, funeral benefits, an educational scheme for soldiers’ children. gifts of money for the purchase of furniture, and the payment of transport expenses of soldiers who enlisted outside Australia, and of their dependants. All of those recommendations have beer adopted by the Government. As the personnel of the commission is to be increased to five, I do not think that any necessity exists for the appointment of assistant commissioners. I support the proposal to appoint a standing committee on repatriation. As the Minister in charge of the bill pointed out in his second-reading speech, this committee shall consider any relevant matter referred to it by the Minister, the commission or any Commonwealth organization representing members of the forces, including the adequacy or otherwise of the rates of pensions and allowances. I emphasize, however, that the standing committee should not usurp the duties of the commission. The latter has done an excellent job. The main function of the proposed committee should be to keep our repatriation legislation up to date. The special committee considered many matters upon which it did not come to a decision; and many other problems will arise in the future. Matters which will require attention by the proposed committee include, for instance, the need for adjustment of pensions in accordance with variations of the cost of living, soldier land settlement, and demobilization problems. Upon all of these matters the commission will require guidance. I feel sure that if the powers of the proposed committee are . clearly defined, it will render valuable service. One of the main causes of discontent in the past is the low rate of pension received by many soldiers. A full explanation of this matter should be circulated as widely as possible. Members of the commission, and also doctors, in giving evidence before the special committee, explained that the reason for the small pension in many cases was the fact that the recipient had been given a pension primarily in order to place him on the pension strength. That is to say, in such cases, the applicants were given the benefit of the doubt. The fact that an applicant is placed on the pension strength, regardless of bow small his pension may be, enables him automatically to receive medical treatment; and should his case warrant it, to apply for an increase of pension. I agree with that principle; but the department should take steps to make it perfectly clear to recipients coming within that category, that the reason they are. being given a small pension is to allow them to receive free medical treatment, and, should the necessity arise, to facilitate the granting of a higher pension.
More can be done to provide congenial employment for pensioners. I regret to say that even men who have lost a limb are very often left to find jobs for themselves after the department has, more or less, looked after them for a certain period. The Government should accept the obligation of providing congenial employment for all pensioners regardless of the severity of their disability. Sufferers from tuberculosis can be supplied with light and congenial jobs which will serve to keep their minds off their affliction. In addition, the employment will enable pensioners to add a little to their income. Senator Foll, speaking with regard to preference to returned soldiers, said, in the early part of his speech, that the special committee, of which I was a member, had done a” very good job. He also suggested that the idea of such committees could be extended to other activities of this Parliament. The question of preference to returned soldiers has been considered by an interdepartmental committee. We should note Senator Poll’s suggestion, that the committee system works very satisfactorily, and refer the question of preference to returned soldiers to an all-party committee, with instructions to consider it and bring in a report and recommendation to Parliament. I believe that the munitions workers and others who have been working on the home front should be given some consideration. I do not know how our friends the public servants will fare, because they believe in preference to public servants as well as preference to returned soldiers. When we board a train we find that a public servant is sitting facing the engine. When we enter a sleeping berth we find that a public servant has the lower berth and a member of Parliament has to take the top berth. The members of the
Public Service leave the Canberra railway station in motor cars, but members of Parliament have to travel in a bus. I do not know how the public servants will, regard the question of preference to returned soldiers. That has to be considered. I do not know how our friends on the other side of the chamber will regard preference to .returned soldiers, because they believe in preference to the United Australia party. The question was brought vividly to our notice a little time ago when the Governor-General gave a garden party. All the members of the United Australia party and the Country party travelled to Government House in motor cars. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) and the members of the Labour party went in a bus. That was a case of preference to the United Australia party. I believe that the Repatriation Act has been very well administered, and will continue to be administered very well indeed, but I should like the Repatriation Commission to issue to every returned soldier, when he is discharged, a statement showing what it is necessary for him to do if he thinks he is entitled to a pension. I have known of numerous returned soldiers who did not know the procedure to be followed when applying for pensions. This would not involve great expense, and it would not be very much trouble for the commission or the Government to issue a small pamphlet to be given to the men when discharged. It is useless to give it to them when on service. The only effective way is to give it to them with their discharge, saying to them, “If at any time you think that you are entitled to a pension this is the procedure that you must follow in order to obtain it”. I think that that would be of great benefit to all returned soldiers. I congratulate the Government on this generous repatriation bill, and hope that it will be passed without much amendment.
Senator CLOTHIER (Western Australia) [4.45 . - I congratulate the special committee on the recommendations which it made to the Government, and I congratulate the Government on its action in adopting so many of ‘the committee’s recommendations. There arc two matters which I wish to stress at this stage, because I do not think that I shall get another suitable opportunity to bring them forward. The first relates to the personnel of the commission, which I understand is to be increased by two. The time has arrived when a woman should be appointed to the commission, particularly when so many women are working in war areas. I hope that a woman will be appointed to conserve the rights of women. There should be .a tribunal in every State. You, Mr. President, and other honorable senators know as well as I do that when one returns to the capital of the State which he represents he is besieged by returned soldiers who have had trouble over their pensions. A claimant in Western Australia has to go to the Pensions Board, which in Perth meets at Riverside Drive. When he goes there he has to wait until the members of the Entitlement Tribunal .come to Western Australia. Then a claim has to be lodged and heard. All this causes great inconvenience, to the soldiers. I appeal to the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) to make a note of that matter and convey to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) what I have -said.
– The committee recommended what the honorable senator has just been speaking of, but the Government did not adopt the recommendation.
– I hope that the Government will change its mind, because we have a. good deal of trouble in. Western Australia over that matter. Last night Senator Wilson suggested that at the end of the war all soldiers should be kept in the Army until they were provided for. I refer him to page 1017 of Hansard of the- 29th September. 1942. Speaking on an Appropriation Bill, I said -
I hope that when the war is over soldiers will sot he discharged from the Army until they have a job to go to. If employment lie waiting for a soldier he should be permitted to leave the Army immediately, but if he lias not a job to go to he should be retained in the Army so that his wife and dependants would continue to ‘ receive their usual allowances. *
That is the same idea that the honorable senator expressed last night. It is an example of two minds thinking alike, although several months have elapsed since the same opinion was expressed.
– in reply - I desire the leave of the Senate to include in my remarks a short memorandum prepared by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt).
– As the Minister is speaking in reply, I should like to be assured that the statement of the Attorney-General arises out of the debate on the bill, and does not introduce new matter.
– Leave having been granted, the Minister may proceed.
– The statement relates to the bill. On behalf of the Government, I desire to pay tribute to Senator Collett and other members of the Opposition for their helpful approach to the bill. It will have beneficial effects and will show that, although we are opposed on other questions, we are unanimous on this subject. During the discussion a number of suggestions have been made of which a note has been taken, so that they may be brought to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost). I do not propose at the moment to say anything about the amendments which have been foreshadowed, because there will be an opportunity to discuss them in committee. The statement of the Attorney-General is as follows : -
The bill makes numerous alterations in the conditions under which members of the forces or their dependants become eligible for pensions. I wish to draw attention to three points in particular : First, the changes in the tests at present prescribed. This will lead, secondly, to a brief indication of the new rights conferred. Thirdly, I shall mention some important changes which are proposed in the actual administration of the tests prescribed.
Clause 35. - Alterations in Section 45au.
Though alterations are made in section 45au, the present broad distinction is retained between a member of the forces who has been on active service and a member who has not. The Commonwealth will still accept a wider liability in the active service cases, and the bill enlarges the definition of “ active service “, so as to include actual combat within Australia, and specified areas within Australia in which combat conditions prevail.
In section 45au, present paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) deals with members of the forces as such, whether or not they have had active service. As it stands, the Commonwealth is liable to pay pensions on the incapacity or death - “ of any member of the forces whose incapacity or death is directly attributable to his employment as a member.”
In the bill, this paragraph becomes paragraph (b), and two main alterations are proposed in it -
There is a fundamental distinction, too, between service in the. forces and ordinary industrial employment. The industrial employer is, no doubt, responsible for the working conditions of his employees, but he is not responsible for, nor can be exercise control over, the major portion of their lives while they are off duty. But the government of a nation, accepting or requiring from its sons the devotion of their lives in its defence in time of war, is in an entirely different position- It must make a very different approach to the question of liability in the event of their incapacity or death. One typical case is the member of the forces giving service in camp. He i3 subject to military, discipline day and night, and his hours even in the recreation hall ave strictly regulated. Perhaps the nearest analogy in civil life is that of the domestic employee, living as a member of the household. The courts have frequently said that in such a case even eating, resting and sleeping are part of the employment or service itself, and. judges have contrasted that case with the position of a factoryworker ; see, for example. Davidson and Company v. McRobb; (1918) A.C, at page 321 (Lord Dunedin). Even when a member of the forces is on leave and away from camp altogether, his service as a member of the forces cannot be said to have been interrupted. The Commonwealth’s responsibility for him cannot be quite as broad as it is for the member actually serving in camp. But the Commonwealth cannot escape liability in such cases.
New Rights Conferred
One of the merits of the bill is to make fuller provision than has yet been made for accepting liability for the results of occurrences on leave. This is the main object and effect of proposed new sub-section 1a. The workmen’s compensation cases draw a sharp distinction between the employer’s liability during the hours of service and his freedom from liability for what happens when his employee goes off duty. I have given reasons for thinking that these distinctions are largely inapplicable to the service conditions of most members of the forces. But proposed new sub-section 1a puts the matter altogether beyond doubt. It illustrates and enlarges the meaning of paragraph 1, by declaring that incapacity or death shall be deemed to have arisen out of the member’s service if it occurs as a result of one or other of a series of happenings. A brief analysis of its provisions will give some indication of the new rights which the bill will confer.
Proposed new- sub-section 1a mentions first the case where incapacity or death is the result of an accident which happened to the member while travelling directly to or from his place of employment as a member. Under the act as it’ stands, an accident happening to a member who wa3 proceeding to or returning from his place of duty has been held not to be an accident “ directly attributable to his employment as a member”. Under the bill the case will be specifically covered in favour of the member. Indeed, it is scarcely correct to treat ‘this as a case in which the bill creates an altogether new right, because, by Statutory Rules 1942 No. 215, which came into force on the 7th May last, the act was in effect amended to provide for this class of case. The substance of the regulation is now incorporated in the bill.
Proposed new sub-section 1a next provides that the incapacity or death df a member shall be deemed to have arisen out of his service as a member “ if it was, in the opinion of the commission, due to an accident which would not have occurred^ but for his being a member of the forces or but for changes in his environment consequent upon his being such a member “. Let me illustrate this by a hypothetical case. Suppose, for example, a member loses the sight of an eye, through a dart thrown in the course of a game. Suppose also that the game took place in the recreation hall in camp in the evening. I suppose every body would agree that the accident should be pensionable. Indeed, I think it would be pensionable under paragraph b of sub-section 1a, even without proposed new sub-section 1a. The new subsection, however, puts that case beyond doubt, and plainly makes the Commonwealth liable.
Suppose, in the second place, that the same accident occurs, but this time the member of the forces is on leave. He has invited a group of men from his unit to a party at his home. Some of the workmen’s compensation cases may suggest that the Commonwealth might not be liable in such circumstances, and I understand that, as it stands, the act has been interpreted as excluding such a happening. But proposed new subsection 1a settles this case also, in favour of the member.
Proposed new sub-section 1a deals not only with accidents happening to a member, but also with disease that he may contract. The Commonwealth is to be liable if the member’s incapacity or death “ was in the opinion of the commission due to the contraction of a disease or infection which would not have been contracted but for his being a member of the forces or but for changes in his environment consequent upon his being such a’ member “. There is evidence for example that the conditions of camp life make members of the forces especially liable to certain types of infection - for example, infection of the respiratory tract - not only in camp, but elsewhere. Accordingly if a member contracts such an infection during a period of leave, I do not think that it would he wrong to say that his incapacity or’ death had “ arisen put of “ or was “ attributable to “ his service. But here proposed new subsection 1a settles the question, again in favour -of the member.
Summing up, the alterations in section 45AU are directed partly towards settling in favour of the member a number of difficult or doubtful cases. As applying particularly, however, to happenings on leave, the bill does more. It extends the Commonwealth’s liability, while yet giving the commission a duty to ensure that there is some relevant connexion between a man’s service on the one hand a>nd his incapacity or death on the other. In this regard the bill makes a fresh step forward.
Clause 21. - Machinery of Administration - the “ Benefits of the Doubt “.
Clause 21 of the bill makes alterations in the machinery by which the tests laid down by the act are applied to the” facts of individual cases. Section 39n of the act, as it stands, directs the commission, in determining appeals, to “give to the appellant the benefit of any (reasonable) doubt “. Present section 45 w further enacts that in appeals before an appeal tribunal or an assessment appeal tribunal “ the onus of proof shall lie with the commission “. Provisions such as these should be of value to claimants, as any one knows who has had experience of the workers’ compensation cases. For the fact that, under the workmen’s compensation acts, the onus of proof generally rests upon the claimant, puts him under a severe handicap. Where the root problem is to determine either the cause or the effect of some physical or mental condition which was possibly not closely observed or recorded at the immediately relevant time, there is the maximum room for diversity of inference. Whatever the. merits, to have to carry the onus of proof is very often to lose the case.
As the act stands, however, both these beneficial rules are of limited application - the one to appeals before the commission, the other to appeals before an appellate tribunal. The bill proposes to repeal the present provisions, and to insert instead a much more detailed and comprehensive set of rules, having the same general object.
Proposed new section 39b begins by applying the “ benefit of the doubt “ rule not only to the commission in hearing appellants, but also to the whole range of authorities by which applications are determined - the commission, a board’, an appeal tribunal, and an assessment appeal tribunal. In addition, the proposed new section makes clear exactly what is involved in the rather vague proposition that the claimant is to have “ the benefit of the doubt “. This is fully illustrated both in sub-section 1 and sub-section 2 of the proposed new section. I draw attention to them, without reading them. By particularizing, the proposed new section assists the claimant, and for that matter every authority administering the act, to make sure that effect is given to the general overriding intention of Parliament. One by one, the points to which the administrative authorities are to direct their attention are set out in detail. The proposed new section ends, as honorable members will see, with a categorical declaration that, in all cases whatsoever, the onus of proof lies with those who oppose, and not those who make, the claim.
The bill, however, deals with the matter even more realistically than this. Most cases turn at last on medical reports. The task of those who come afterwards is very largely to collate, to reconcile, if possible, and to draw inferences from these reports. The purpose of proposed new. section 39c is to ensure that the medical reports on any claim in relation to a member of the forces will be expressed in such a form as to assist to the greatest possible extent in the administration of the act. In particular, the medical practitioner is required to form and express his own opinion on the extent to which, if at all, the claim satisfies one or other of the various tests laid down elsewhere in the act. He is also required to place on record any doubt he entertains as to any of the matters on which he is required to report. This proposed new section is, I think, an original contribution in our bill to the problem of administering a scheme of repatriation benefits. It should not only facilitate the task of the authorities who adjudicate on claims, but it should be of substantial benefit to claimants, because it will indicate from the very outset the points at which doubt is, or can be, entertained.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Senator Brand) put -
That itbe an instruction to the Committee of the Whole on the bill to consider the amendment of section 45aj of the Principal Act and the insertion of a new section in the Principal Act to follow section 55.
Question resolved in the affirmative, there being more than fifteen senators present, and no dissentient voice.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 postponed.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause8 (Assistant commissioners).
– Will the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Cameron) state what the Government proposes shall be the duties of the assistant commissioners, and whether they are to be domiciled in the various States?
– They must be domiciled at head-quarters. They will form a part of the commission.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 30 agreed to.
New clause 30a.
.- I move -
That, after clause 30, the following new clausebe inserted: - “ 30a. Section forty-five aj of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, where any applicant for a service pension or a service pensioner, or the husband or wife of an applicant or a service pensioner, possesses property which is subject to anyencumbrances and which in the opinion of the Commission cannotbe realized except at a considerable loss, the Commission may, in assessing the net capital value of his accumulated property, disregard the value of the interest of that person in the property ‘.”
As the act now stands, all property held by an applicant for a service pension is taken into account in assessing his pension. In some instances a property cannot be sold easily, either because of lack of demand or because of statutory restrictions on sales. Such a property is a burden rather than an asset, and to hold its value against an applicant for a pension is wrong. The proposed now clause is identical with a provision of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment. The method of assessing the net capital value of accumulated property for service pension purposes is considered to be generous, and the policy followed by the commission is substantially the same as that asked for in the amendment. Moreover, there is always the possibility of abuse in the class of cases under review. As under the existing act the commission is able to exercise discretion, it is considered undesirable to amend the act along the lines suggested. The system now in operation has worked well for a number of years, and few protests have been received. The Government considers that no good purpose can be served by amending the present legislation in that respect unless substantial reasons are given. No such reasons have, so far, been given. I am, however, prepared to ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) to investigate any cases in which it is alleged that hardship has resulted from the administration of the present legislation in this connexion.
.- I press for the inclusion of the proposed new clause. “Why should a soldier be treated less generously in respect of his service pension than a civilian is treated in respect of an old-age pension?
! - The question arises whether the amendment is within the scope of the leave granted to ‘Senator Brand.
– I hope that the committee will accept the proposed new clause. The only difference between the eligibility of an old-age pensioner and a service pensioner is a matter of five years. There’ are many instances of men who have inferior farming properties on their hands. The value of such property is now taken into consideration when assessing a service pension, but it may not bp the true value of the land. The suggestion contained in the proposal is a wise one, and if adopted many cases of hardship will be avoided.
– There is a difference between the case of an old-age pensioner :and that of a soldier who applies for a war pension. Very few old-age pensioners possess any property, whereas many soldiers may own considerable property. A soldier may own property worth £10,000, which he may have to sell for £7,000. In cases of that kind the commission deals sympathetically with the applicant. No case has been cited to show that it has lacked sympathy in handling cases of this kind. Therefore, we can rely upon it to continue that practice, particularly in view of the assurance given by the Minister for Repatriation that he will inquire into cases of real hardship coming within this clause.
.- T find it somewhat difficult to follow the reasoning of the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) with regard to the proposed new clause. He said, in effect, that at present this matter is in the discretion of the commission, and that the commission seems to have taken the view he has explained. The proposal is not intended to take the matter out of the discretion of the commission. It is not mandatory upon the commission. It is designed to show that it is the will of Parliament that the commission shall take this aspect into consideration, and shall exercise its discretion in relation to it. I cannot see why the Minister objects to the insertion of a provision which, he says, the commission now conforms with in practice.
– I know of many cases of old-age pensioners being denied the full rate of ola-age pension, because they hold certain life assurance policies, which, of course, are property. However, the pensioners had obtained loans on the security of those policies, and, in order to come within the income provisions to qualify for the full rate of pension - the pension being determined pro rata to the value of the pensioner’s property - they either had to forfeit the policies or surrender them at a considerable loss. The proposed new clause is necessary.
It is stupid to think that applicants for war pensions should he. obliged to cash their life assurance policies, and expend that money in order to qualify for the full rate of pension, which is denied to them because of the existence of those assets. Exservice men should receive exactly the same treatment as is now meted out to old-age pensioners in this respect.
– I direct attention to the fact that the onus of proof rests upon the commission, which is bound, therefore, to satisfy itself beyond all doubt that a claim is justified. In those circumstances, the applicant for a pension is fully protected.
– I am unable to understand what the onus of proof has to do with this clause. The proposal leaves the matter to the discretion of the commission. It must be of opinion that hardship arises. I understand from what has been said by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) that the commission now follows that practice. The purpose of the proposed new clause is simply to give legislative effect to that practice. It does not impose any further burdenupon anybody, but places the matter beyond all doubt. As Senator Spicer has pointed out, it is not mandatory upon the commission. As the practice now followed by the commission is in harmony with the proposal, the Government should accept it.
Question put -
That the proposed new clause (Senator Brand’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (Thechairman - Senator Brown.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
New clause agreed to.
Clauses 31 to 35 agreed to.
Section forty-five au of the Principal Act is amended -
Section proposed to be amended - 45 au. (1.) Upon the incapacity or death - the Commonwealth shall … be liable to pay . . . pensions . . .
Provided that -
the incapacity or death of the member -
is not due to the default or wilful act of the member;
does not arise from, or from any occurrence happening during the commission of, any breach of discipline by the member;
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment: -
After paragraph (a) insert the following paragraphs : - “ (ab) by inserting in sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) of the proviso to that sub-section, before the word default ‘, the word ‘ serious ‘ ; (ac) by inserting in sub-paragraph (iii ) of that paragraph, before the word breach’, the word ‘serious’;”.
The amendment which we are asking the House of Representatives to make speaks for itself. Paragraph (a) of the proviso specifies that there shall not be a liability to pay pension in certain circumstances, such as where incapacity or death is due to default or arises from a breach of discipline. It is proposed to insert before the words “ default “ and “ breach “ the word “ serious “, thus bringing the provision into line with the practice followed in determining claims.
– What is meant by the word “ serious “ ? What degree of severity is required to entitle a claimant to a certain amount of leniency of treatment in respect of this clause?
– Unless the qualifying word “ serious “ is inserted, the breach or default may be trivial, but the addition of “ serious “ will give those who adjudicate much more discretion, and make more liberal treatment possible.
– The onus of proof will still be on the commission?
Request agreed to.
Clause agreed to, subject to request.
Clauses 37 to 42 agreed to.
New clause 42a.
.- I move -
That, after clause 42. the following new clause be inserted : - “ 42a. After section fifty-five of the Principal Act the following section is inserted in Part IV.:- 55a. - (.1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law of the Commonwealth or of any State or Territory of the Commonwealth or in any award, Order or determination of any industrial tribunal or of any industrial agreement, preference shall, in the appointment of persons to the Public Service of the ‘Commonwealth or to the service of an authority of the Commonwealth, he given to persons who have been members of the Forces and have served outside Australia or in any area prescribed as a combat area for the purposes of this Act and who are competent for the work required. (2.) All contracts entered into with the Commonwealth for the performance of works or services shall be deemed to contain a clause whereby the contractor with the Commonwealth binds himself, undera penalty of Fifty pounds in respect of each breach of the clause, to grant, in engaging employees for the purpose of executing the contract, preference to persons specified in sub-section (1.) of this section. (3.) For the purposes of this section, “ authority of the Commonwealth “ includes any commission, board or other body created by or under any law of the Commonwealth or Territory of the Commonwealth or which is declared by the Governor-General by proclamation to be an authority for the purposes of this section.’ “.
The scope of the preference outlined in this new clause is not as embracing as I should like. Constitutional restrictions may prevent the extension to State services and municipal bodies. Still, it is a step in the right direction, and is, I believe, in conformity with the wishes of a large section of the Australian people. That first consideration as a reward for sacrifice and service is employment, and no one can truthfully dispute that. There seems to be a lack of realization in some quarters of the nature of the services rendered under fire and on the home front. In the munitions establishments there are thousands of old diggers, who, I venture to say, are in complete accord with any legislation which will give the younger generation of fighters security of employment as a reward for services to this country. This should be a non-party question, and I hope that honorable senators opposite will rise above party politics and vote for the insertion of this proposed new clause in our repatriation legislation, where it rightly belongs. In view of the statements which they made during the debate on the National Welfare Fund Bill, I cannot see how they can refuse to support this proposed new clause. On that occasion, they expressed great concern about the future of the fighting man and his family; now is the time to prove their sincerity. The fighting man on land, sea and air is more concerned about securing a permanent job than about the right to vote. Preference is a form of repatriation which no government can ignore. The future of our fighting men whose duties carry them beyond the shores of Australia, or to areas which later may be prescribed as combat zones, must not be merged or submerged in any grandiose scheme of socialization. The ideal, of course, is employment for every citizen; but, until that can be provided, let a start be made with that section of the community which is making it possible for all of us to enjoy better economic conditions. But for their practical patriotism and sacrifice, no great advancement in our economiclives would be possible. They have helped to keep the enemy from our shores. Are we not grateful for that? Munitions workers and others are doing a splendid job, too, but undersafer and better financial conditions. This bill has been debated on a non-party basis, and I trust that this proposal will be discussed in that way, and eventually agreed to, in appreciation of the great services that are being rendered by our fighting men.
– I rise to order. I hope that Senator Brand will not imagine that I wish to do anything short of what, he believes to be fair and just treatment of returned soldiers; but care must be taken in regard to the procedure that we are adopting. I would like you, Mr. Chairman, to rule as to whether the proposed new clause actually conies within the scope of the bill. We have had a debate upon the measure, and honorable senators are quite well acquainted with its exact nature. It deals with benefits and assistance of a monetary character that are to be given to our soldiers and their dependants, and with certain administrative provisions that are necessary to give effect to the proposals embodied in the measure. The proposed new clause deals with employment, and for that reason I am of opinion that it should not be included in the bill. Undoubtedly Senator Brand’s proposal has its merits, and could be given consideration at the proper time, but I submit that it is beyond the scope of the bill.
– It seems to me that Senator Brand’s proposed new clause, limited as it is - I should prefer it to go much further - goes to the very root of repatriation, and, therefore, comes within the ambit of this measure. In the course of the debate upon this bill, we have discussed repatriation matters in the broadest possible sense. In addition to pensions and dependants’ allowances, the bill deals with such matters as advancing money to returned soldiers to enable them to start in business undertakings after the war. That is only fair, because most of these men will return to a very new life, and it is only right that we should endeavour to secure for them preference over everybody else in securing employment. Already it is laid down that when a man leaves a business establishment to enlist in the fighting forces, his job must be kept open for him until he returns. That is of the very essence of repatriation, and we should all be prepared to bow to that ruling. I should be prepared to go further than
Senator Brand does in his proposal, and to extend the preference to all forms of employment, and I defy anybody to deny to this Parliament power to legislate in that regard. For its constitutional authority this Parliament rests upon the defence powers of the Commonwealth, and I venture to say that the defence powers do not cease when a man is put into uniform, or when provision is made for the payment of .pensions, dependants’ allowances, or advances to assist returned soldiers in business. The best, repatriation that can be offered, to any ex-serviceman is a congenial, permanent joh. How can such a matter be irrelevant? While I deplore the fact that Senator Brand’s proposal does not provide for general preference to returned soldiers, I contend that the principle embodied in it is an integral part of this measure, and the Government should have no hesitation in accepting it.
– What about applying the principle to the company of which the honorable senator is a director?
– I am happy to state that already it operates in my profession. In many capital cities to-day legal men who are earning substantial incomes at the bar are contributing handsomely to a fund the purpose of which is to make up to solicitors and barristers who have enlisted in the fighting services the difference between their military pay and their former earnings. The principle of preference to returned soldiers has been accepted in many walks of life. In the legal profession steps are being taken to ensure that, upon discharge from the fighting, forces, men will not fall upon briefless days. The duty rests on the Government to ensure that, as far as is humanly possible, preference in employment is given to returned soldiers. Therefore, I submit that the proposed new clause is not foreign to the bill. The necessary notice of the proposal was given in accordance with the Standing Orders. Unless we accept the proposal, Ve shall be guilty of the everlasting disgrace of having preached the granting of help to returned soldiers with our tongue in our cheeks. Preference in employment is better than an increase of the soldier’s pension, because it would rehabilitate him in industry and restore his manhood. Many soldiers returned from the last war mental and physical wrecks. I wish Senator Brand had gone further and had asked for general preference for returned soldiers. The proposal provides for a real step forward with regard to the repatriation of those soldiers who have gone overseas.
– I agree with much of what Senator A. J. McLachlan has said, but the point raised must be decided altogether apart from the merits or demerits of preference in employment to returned soldiers. I contend that that principle cannot be introduced under this bill, because it is- foreign to the measure. I have raised this point in the interests of the returned soldiers themselves. We should be acting in a slip-shod manner by dealing with that principle in this measure, as it has no relation to the machinery provided by the bill. We should not have a debate at this stage on the merits or demerits of the principle or as to the means by which, or the degree to which, it should be put into operation.
– I contend that the point taken by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) is not well founded. Under this bill it is proposed to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which is an act to make provision for the repatriation of Australian soldiers and for other purposes. I submit that the new clause proposed by Senator Brand relates to repatriation in the true sense of the word. The act with which we are dealing does not establish a repatriation fund, or make provision for the payment of repatriation benefits only, but it provides for the repatriation of Australian soldiers. It is true that the act, as one would expect, deals in the main in its detailed provisions with those soldiers who, as a result of their serf ice overseas, have been subjected to some incapacity, and it is concerned in the main with the repatriation of those soldiers by providing certain payments and benefits for them. There are other soldiers, however - and probably they constitute the majority - who, not having suffered any injury or incapacity, will not seek repatriation in the form of payments, but will desire to be repatriated into the positions which they left when they entered the forces, or be given work of a similar or better kind. It is almost beyond argument that the proposal provides for repatriation in the truest sense of the term. If we are to make provision for the repatriation of our soldiers, it is desirable that the two matters should he dealt with in this bill. On the one hand, we should say to those who are incapacitated that they are to be provided with monetary and other benefits, whilst for those who are not suffering from incapacity, or are incapacitated only to a slight degree, that we shall ensure iii this bill that they are repatriated by being given preference in employment in civil life.
– In support of the point raised by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings), I draw attention to Standing Order No. 139, which states -
Every amendment must be relevant to the question to which it is proposed to he made.
Therefore, I claim that the proposed new clause is not relevant to the bill. No previous repatriation provision has alluded to the principle referred to by Senator Brand, except with reference to appointments to the staff of the Repatriation Department. Preference to returned soldiers was given in that case and has been maintained. I agree with the Leader of the Senate that this is not the proper time nor the proper measure in which to adopt the principle which Senator Brand desires to incorporate in the bill.
– I direct the attention of the committee to Standing Order No. 332, which states -
An instruction can be given to a committee of the whole on a bill to amend an existing act, to consider amendments which are not relevant to the subject-matter of the bill, but are relevant to the subject-matter of the act it is proposed to amend, provided that such motion shall be carried by at least fifteen affirmative votes.
Senator Brand has given the necessary notice, and, even if the point raised by the Leader of the Senate were well taken, it is met by the fact that the title of the bill shows that it is for “ an act to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and for other purposes “. What other purposes could be more relevant than that provided for in the proposal submitted by Senator Brand? I contend that you, Mr. Chairman, should rule that the amendment is in order.
Although in my opinion the Senate could have debated earlier whether the proposed new clause was germane to the bill it did not do so ; it instructed the committee to consider the insertion of a new section in the principal act to follow section 55. The point now to be decided is whether the proposed new clause is relevant to the principal act. Part IV. of that act deals with “ Assistance and Benefits “. If under the Constitution two sections of the community may be distinguished in a matter of preference such as preference to unionists and to returned soldiers I consider that it is competent for the committee to consider this proposed new clause which comes in the same category. I, therefore, rule that the motion is in order.
– The Government cannot accept the proposal because it considers that the present bill is not the appropriate place for a provision of this kind, as it does not provide the necessary machinery to give effect to it. Moreover, it might cause delay in providing the other benefits which are proposed. The bill provides machinery for dealing only with pensions and other benefits; it does not provide machinery for deciding whether an applicant for a position is competent to perform the work required of him. Who is to judge that competency? If the proposed new section be inserted in the bill without any machinery being provided to deal with the cases which will arise, employers will become a law unto themselves, and will have the right to say whether or not a man is competent to carry out certain work. The Government has considered this matter, but it believes that the question of preference in employment is sufficiently important to be dealt with in a separate measure. As indicated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) some days ago, the Government intends to bring in a measure to deal with preference in em ployment. Notice of such intention, in so far as it affects the Commonwealth Public Service, was given in the House of Representatives to-day. Full and complete consideration can be given to this important matter more effectively when that bill is before the Parliament than by an addition to the bill now before the Senate. I hope, therefore, that the committee will accept the assurance of the Prime Minister, particularly as it is obvious that there is no machinery in existence to give effect to this proposal. The bill which the Prime Minister has promised to introduce will deal with preference in its broad aspects. Preference to-day is entirely different from what’ it was after the last war. On this occasion men who have not left Australia may be entitled to preference. The promised bill will enable the matter of preference to be dealt with in its widest aspects.
– I cannot understand what the Government is troubled about. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) said that he practically agreed with what Senator A. J. McLachlan said, but he thought that provision should be made for preference in another measure. This is the first chance that we have had to put into the legislation of this country something which the Opposition thinks ought to be there, and, therefore, it is taking advantage of the opportunity. Why the Government should object, and say that it will- bring in another bill to give effect to the same purpose I do not know. First, the Government raised a feeble legal objection to the proposed new clause, and now other reasons are advanced for opposing it, notwithstanding that the Leader of the Senate stated that a similar provision would be incorporated in another bill. We are told by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) that this bill does not deal with employment, and that, in any event, it does not provide the machinery to give effect to the proposed new clause. The bill deals with the training of men who return from the war, and if a natural corollary to training of such men is not their employment, I do not know what is.
Why does not the Government act honestly in this matter? The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) declared that this was not a party matter, and that the Government was in favour of making provision along the lines suggested. He said that the Prime Minister had given an assurance that a measure would be introduced for that purpose. However, after watching the manoeuvres of the Government on the matter - at first it desired to block any debate at all on the subject - and after listening to the reasons given by the Minister in charge of the bill for refusing to accept the proposal, I am beginning to think that the Government is actuated by motives other than those which it professes. If the Government believes in the principle of preference in employment to returned soldiers, and proposes to introduce a comprehensive measure to give effect to that principle, there can be no harm in accepting the proposed new clause. It will not impair this measure in any way but it will give to the returned soldiers an assurance from the Parliament that they shall receive this preferential treatment. I understand that the bill of which notice of introduction was given in the House of Representatives to-day does not deal with the subject of preference on ‘so comprehensive a basis as does the proposed new clause. At all events, it is the duty of the Parliament to assure the returned soldiers that they shall receive these benefits, and as many more as we can afford to give to them. This is the first opportunity that the Parliament has had to give that assurance. If honorable senators opposite are sincere in their desire to help the returned soldiers as much as they possibly can, they will support the proposed new clause.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
– Senator Leckie asked why the Government was not honest in this matter. Senator Spicer said earlier that the men who were serving in the forces wanted when re-entering civil life to return to the jobs they left, or to other jobs. The special committee appointed to consider this matter ex pressed its views in the following terms : -
Views of the Parliamentary Committee to be referred to the Inter-departmental Committee which is considering this matter.
This report has been received, has been considered by the Government, but certain details remain to be finalized.
– That is not in the report at all. It is the Government’s comment on the report.
– It is the Government’s decision in connexion with it. The proposal of the special committee was -
Wherever practicable preference must be given to members of the forces in the matter of employment.
– Read the first portion.
– That is all there is. The proposed new clause does not apply to repatriation legislation, but to the Public Service Act. To introduce it into this bill is diametrically opposed to the wishes of the returned soldiers’ delegation which came to Canberra and addressed the special committee. I remember the words of Mr. Lynch, who warned those who wanted to move amendments that they were not to make a political football of the soldiers. He added, “ I warn you that if you do we will expose you “. To embody a proposal such as this in a repatriation bill is to disregard what Mr. Lynch said. For 25 years anti-Labour governments declined to assist returned soldiers. Then, when a government which is prepared to assist the returned soldiers is in power, honorable senators opposite try to insert a new clause which is tantamount to political sham and humbug. They are trying to score off the returned soldier by pretending that they propose to do something for him. The Government is honest; but the Opposition is dishonest in its proposals. I say that deliberately. The Opposition proposes to give preference of employment in the Public Service to returned soldiers, and to compel any person who accepts a contract from the Government to employ returned soldiers.
– What is wrong with that?
– ‘What is wrong with applying it to private enterprise? What is wrong with honorable senators opposite applying it to their own businesses? Instead of that, they want to impose upon the Government and upon the soldiers a semblance of preference which will act detrimentally to the people of Australia. We accept the principles of the Atlantic Charter; yet the Opposition in this Parliament now proposes to restrict the opportunities of the boys who have to grow up in this country. I warn honorable senators opposite of what they are proposing to do. Under the old preference act, boys below school age were prevented when they grew up and married from securing jobs, because they were not returned soldiers, although they had had no possible chance of going to the war. By this proposal the Opposition will injure those who have been prevented from going to this war, including all those in munitions annexes, those employed in aircraft construction, the making of tanks for war purposes, and in many other industries, who have been prohibited from going to the war. They have been held here by the man-power authorities, who would not allow them to leave Australia in any circumstances. They will all be prevented by this proposal from getting jobs. I urge the Opposition to do something reasonable. Let them wait a little while, ‘because I believe that in the House of Representatives to-day the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) gave notice of the introduction of a bill to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act to give effectto preference. Why embody this in the Repatriation Bill ? Do honorable senators opposite want the Repatriation Commission to prosecute people for employing men who are not returned soldiers? It is easy to get over the act giving preference to returned soldiers, and also the act placed on the statute-book by tha Government of New South Wales, so that such legislation is only tomfoolery. It is still greater tomfoolery to try to introduce into a bill amending the Repatriation Act a clause giving preference in the Commonwealth Public Service to returned soldiers. It is dishonest, but I can understand the dishonesty. I have witnessed the procession that has gone on here daily. First came the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr.
Menzies), drilling honorable senators opposite, and then came the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), wearing out his boot leather, and telling them that certain things must be done. Then came the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), trying to prevent them from doing these things. It became a side-show. That is what the Opposition has reduced these proceedings to, in an endeavour to score politically off the soldiers. Why are they not honest? What the soldiers want is not preference over other men, but jobs. They want to know that when they return they will get jobs that will provide them and their families with clothing, food, and shelter. They want social security and social justice, and not to score off their fellow men, or take jobs from those they left behind, probably their own brothers. They do not want to see others evicted from their homes, and lined up in the dole queue, as happened before. I urge honorable senators opposite to withdraw the proposal. It is not fair to try to do what the returned soldiers appealed to us not to do. I listened, as did many honorable senators opposite, to Mr. Lynch urging us all not to make the soldiers a political football, but to pass the bill as soon as possible. I am confident that, if the returned soldiers had thought for a moment that a proposal of this character would be moved in this bill, to which it does not belong, they would have remained here, and would have seen to it that the Opposition did not try to prevent the passage of a measure which the returned soldiers have wanted for years. If it is amended, its passage into law will be delayed. It should receive the Royal assent at the earliest moment. That should be the aim of every exsoldier in this Parliament. Honorable senators opposite should not do anything to delay it, especially by introducing amendments which are foreign to it. I challenge them to prove that the proposal has anything to do with the bill. I listened to what the lawyers on the other side had to say. I heard the arguments of Senator Spicer and Senator A. J. McLachlan. I like to hear them display their legal knowledge in this chamber, tut I know that it is trickery. They objected recently to another measure being attached to a taxation bill. They called it tacking, and refused to accept it, and a majority of the Senate decided that they were right. If this proposal is not tacking, I do not know what is. It is attaching to the Repatriation Act something which belongs to the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Honorable senators opposite may succeed because of their numbers, but that is just stupid political cowardice. It is simply doing something to score off the soldiers, and to injure them. The soldiers are important to Australia, and it is more important that the Government should see that there is employment for them when they return, than it is for the Opposition just to shadow-spar for political gain. They are simply trying to import into a bill to which it does not belong a proposal to give preference of employment to soldiers in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, and in respect of any contracts secured from the Government by private persons. I trust that, wherever there is preference, it will be for the Australian worker, and that includes the Australian soldier who was a worker before he went abroad. Of course, some of the soldiers were unemployed before they went away, because they could not get jobs, but we will assume that they were workers. When they return jobs must be found for them, and also for all those who have served Australia loyally by strengthening Australia’s war machine. They include all who have built the bombers and made the bombs, constructed machine guns and munitions, and played their part in every factory. Is the Opposition going to say to them that they are not worthy of jobs, and are not fit to be employed in the Commonwealth Public Service? Do honorable senators opposite mean that? If they do, let them say so.
– What the honorable senator really wants is preference to unionists, whether they are soldiers or not. He would not give a job to a soldier who was a non-unionist.
– The honorable senator would give preference to anybody so long as it suited him. His voice has been heard a good deal lately in this Parliament; but the day is not far distant when he will be missing from his place in this chamber. The electors will know that he, as a returned soldier, by supporting this proposal, tried to prevent the passage of this bill. If he supports the Opposition, he will be guilty of injuring the soldiers who have offered their all for their country.
– It is time the committee got down to hard facts. Reference had repeatedly been made by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) to the promises made to the men serving abroad as to what should :be done for them when they return. The special committee appointed to consider the terms of the Repatriation Act thought that one factor in the successful rehabilitation of a man who had been abroad and done his service there was to provide a job for him when he returned. The committee considered the question in these aspects, and what it reported was not what Senator Amour read just now, but- the following : -
The evidence quoted in parag.ra.ph 22-
That is the paragraph which I quoted last night, and I suggest that that evidence is very telling - directs attention to the necessity for all reasonable measures in the favour of members whereby the handicaps to which they are subjected by service can be offset. The committee recommends that it be public policy-
That does not necessarily mean government policy - that wherever practicable preference must be given to members of the forces in the matter of employment.
In the matter of public policy, what the committee envisaged was that not only the Commonwealth Government, but also State governments and private employers should give preference to returned soldiers. In the Commonwealth Public Service Act, preference to returned soldiers has been provided for many years, but the committee was of opinion that we should go farther than that. In any case the Commonwealth Public Service Act does not specify that preference must be given to returned soldiers of this war. In reply to an interjection made earlier today by an honorable senator opposite, who asked what we on this side of the chamber have been doing about the matter in the last two years, I should like to point out that for the past eighteen months at least, I have been endeavouring to induce the Government to make a statement of its intentions in regard to the granting of preference to returned soldiers under the Commonwealth Public Service Act, but I have been unable to get a definite answer.
– What did the honorable senator do about it when he was Minister for Repatriation in the previous Government, during the first two years of the war ?
– I am reminded of the uproar that occurs when one throws a stone into a poultry yard on a quiet Sunday morning; I do not like throwing stones. In regard to the Commonwealth Public Service Act, this proposal is to confer upon returned soldiers of this war the same privileges that are enjoyed by returned soldiers of the last war. That, at least, is a starting point. We should like the Government to go further; we hope that the Government will get this country behind a preference-to-returned soldiersmovement, and I am confident that if this proposal be carried we shall be going a long way on the right road.
– I emphasized in the course of my earlier speech upon this matter that it was important that our thoughts should not be mixed. There is not the slightest need for this discussion. Senator Collett has just said that honorable senators opposite have been endeavouring for a long time to ascertain the opinion of the Government on the question of preference to returned: soldiers; I have a recollection of stating quite clearly in this chamber some time ago that the Government was considering that matter, and that it was determined that the preference to returned soldiers which was enforced after the last war should again be operative in regard to returned soldiers of this war, pending the passing of legislation. However, the point that I am really concerned about i3 that this amendment will not do what its sponsor requires, and what I know he desires. It has been ill-considered. Evidence of its hurried preparation is to be found, for instance, in the fact that it omits completely any reference whatever to an important section of our fighting services which is doing an excellent job for the Allied Nations, convoying foodstuffs, war materials and troops, namely, the merchant navy, without which we should very soon find it impossible to wage war. The proposal refers only to members of the Navy, Army and Air Force it takes no cognizance whatever of that most important arm of the services to which I have referred, and which is most deserving of recognition. I cite that example of the incomplete nature of this clause, because I wish to emphasize that when, in the House of Representatives to-day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) gave notice of his intention to introduce a bill to deal with the question of preference to returned soldiers, he really meant that he would bring down such a measure. It is our view that this amendment is not in order because it introduces extraneous matter, but in that opinion we were overruled by the Chairman of Committees (Senator Brown), and I am prepared to accept that ruling. I warn honorable senators opposite that if they insert the proposed new clause in this bill there will be no machinery to give effect to it, and interminable delay will result, whereas, if they wait until a comprehensive measure can be brought before this chamber in the ordinary way, they will have the advantage of the discussion that has taken place this afternoon, and the advantage of dealing with legislation which will approach this question in the proper manner. Senator Brand said that he did not want this matter made a party political issue. We are not making it one. We realize that the Opposition has the numbers to carry this proposal, but it will still be necessary to bring down a separate measure in order to do the job properly. I ask honorable senators to believe that we on this side’ of the chamber are sincere in this matter. We are not raising these points for’ the purpose of causing delay; our only desire is to approach the problem in the proper and most effective way.
.- I am opposed to this half-baked proposal. It does not go far enough, nor will it accomplish the purpose for which it is designed. Every one knows that after the last war, although preference, to returned soldiers was adhered to in some measure by government and semi-government authorities, in private enterprise that was not so. The only preference that a returned soldier had was whether he would walk the road or “ jump the rattler “. Senator A. J. McLachlan, who spoke feelingly on this amendment this afternoon, knows that the Hume Pipe Company Limited, with which he is associated, did not give preference to returned soldiers. When I returned from the last war the engineering firm for which I had been working said, “Look here, Lamp, in your job there is a man who has to keep his mother. How about you looking for a job somewhere else “? I said, “ That is for you to decide. I have never been wanting a job in my life and I am not asking one from you now “. Preference to returned soldiers is a matter which must be treated in a proper manner. It is bound up inextricably with the problems of demobilization. We should make provision for a properly organized system of demobilization, controlled by the Department of Labour and National Service, or some other competent authority. Men should be drafted straight from the fighting services into jobs. During the depression years, if a returned soldier went to a business organization in the town in which I live and asked1 that he be given preference in employment, he was told to get off the premises, or the police would be summoned to put him off. There must be no repetition of that state of affairs. Returned men must be placed in permanent jobs, because once they are satisfactorily settled in life, the question of preference is of no importance. The proper way to tackle the task is- that forecast by the Prime Minister. We should postpone all discussion on this subject until the’ new measure is brought down, or, if honorable senators opposite would prefer it, an all-party committee of honorable senators and honorable members of the House of Representatives could be set up to investigate the subject and suggest whatever amendments it may consider necessary. For instance, one problem which must be dealt with is the question whether a single returned soldier is to have preference in employment over a married munitions worker, who was not allowed to go to the war. Many other difficult problems of that kind will have to be solved. I repeat that the proposal is half-baked and ill-considered, and that the question of preference to returned soldiers is bound up with demobilization. After the war all private employers should be obliged to engage workers through the Department of Labour and National Service, which could apply the principle of preference to returned soldiers, and if an employer considers that the man who is allocated to him is not efficient enough for the job, he should be called upon to state his reasons to the Department of Labour and National Service before the services of the man could be dispensed with. I challenge honorable senators opposite to sponsor a proposal of that nature, because without such a provision a scheme of preference to returned soldiers will be inadequate. We should do the job in the proper manner, so that everybody will be satisfied.
– Despite the fact that honorable senators opposite had the assistance of legal men, this is one of the most ill-considered proposals brought before this chamber. It will not achieve its object of giving preference to returned soldiers generally, but will give preference only to a section of the returned soldiers. The following is an extract from the first paragraph of the proposed new clause: - . , preference shall, in the appointment of persons to the Public Service of the Commonwealth or to the service of an authority of the Commonwealth, be given to persons who have been, members of the Forces and have served outside Australia or in any area prescribed as a combatant ,area for the purposes of this Act . . .
All honorable senators will agree that many members of the fighting services who are doing a good job for their country have not left Australia, through no fault of their’ own. In that respect this war is quite different from the last war, when, in order to serve in the fighting services, one had to go abroad. There was no difficulty then in determining whether or not a man was a returned soldier, but to-day many members of the Australian Imperial Force, Militia, and other fighting forces are rendering valuable service to their country within its shores, and the adoption of this proposal would prevent them from enjoying the advantage of preference in employment. Thus, ill feeling would be caused amongst our returned men, and I am sure that nothing was further from the mind of Senator Brand. I draw attention also to the words “ who are competent for the work required “. That qualification will give to an employer the right to say that a returned soldier employee is not competent, and, therefore, should not have a job. “Who is to be the judge of whether or not a worker is competent?
– All things being equal.
– Those words are not found in the proposed new clause. In seeking employment from a contractor engaged in work for the Commonwealth Government, the soldier’s only identification mark would be his returned soldier’s badge. I have a returned soldier’s badge, but I do not decorate myself with it.
– The employer might desire to see the soldier’s certificate of discharge.
– Is the obligation to be placed on the contractor to determine whether a soldier has served in Australia or abroad? The mover of the amendment should make that pointclear. Who is to determine whether a soldier has served abroad?
– His discharge shows where he has served.
– If difficulties of that kind are to be raised, I am sorry for the soldiers. The sons of many thousands of men who served in the last war are employed in industry to-day. I am sure that the soldier does not look for the preference sought by the mover of the proposed new clause, but he expects different treatment from that, which was received by returned men after the last war. The preference then given to them was the privilege to use a pick or shovel. Anti-Labour governments have been in power for the greater part of the last 25 years, and they have allowed conditions obtaining at the conclusion of the last war, with regard to preference to returned men, to continue. In some of the States the returned soldiers received a belated preference which was of little use to them. If those who support this proposal succeed in dividing the returned soldiers they will do a disservice both to them and to Australia. The adoption of the proposed new clause would merely lead to confusion, and would not assist returned soldiers in any way. An intimation has already been made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) that a measure providing for what is sought by the mover is to be introduced in the House of Representatives. I ask that the proposal be withdrawn, or that the mover of it clarify the position.
.–The Government should give a lead to the people of Australia on the important subject of preference in employment to returned soldiers.
– Why was that nor done by the Government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member?
– I shall recall some of the facts. Early in January, 1940, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), when Prime Minister, appointed a committee consisting of Sir George Knowles, SolicitorGeneral; Mr. F. G. Thorpe, Public Service Commissioner; Mr. D. McVey, Director of Posts and Telegraphs; and Mr. J. A. Carrodus, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, to inquire into the important matter of preference to returned soldiers of this war, as far as the Commonwealth Public Service is concerned. The report of that committee was presented to the Government on the 7th May, 1940.
– It was pigeon-holed.
- ‘No. The practice of giving preference to returned soldiers was pursued when the Menzies Government was in office, but I am sorry to say that the present Government he- lieves in preference to unionists over returned soldiers.
– That is not so.
– On the 19th June, 1941, an inter-departmental advisory committee was appointed to report to the government of the day on the larger issue. When the Fadden Government went out of office those matters had been carefully considered, and all of the facts and the reports were before the Government. When the Curtin Government came into office, in October, 1941, the preliminary inquiries by experts had been made and their recommendation, as far as the Commonwealth Public Service was concerned, was that the preference enjoyed in that Service after the last war should be granted to soldiers in this war. As Senator Collett has said, the Opposition has watched the actions of this Government in office during the last eighteen months. A man was appointed a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board because he was an organizer on behalf of a State Labour party at the last general elections. I received a deputation recently at which it was stated that an ex-soldier’s son, who had three brothers serving in the Australian Imperial Force, had lost an eye while fighting in Syria, and that he had been an applicant for a position as a wheat agent. Another applicant for the job was one of a family of four, none of whom had served at the front, but the soldier with one eye did not receive the appointment, although I am satisfied, from personal knowledge, that he was qualified for it.
– Is Mr. Menzies a returned soldier ?
– He had two brothers fighting in the last war, and two soldiers out of three eligible men is not a bad performance. If the honorable senator proposes to descend to personalities, I inform him that the record of Mr. Menzies is better than that of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). The present Government appointed a hand-picked tribunal to fix the wages and conditions of men employed in the wheat industry. Two members of the Australian Workers Union were selected to represent Labour.
– I submit that the proposal contains no reference to the wheat industry, and that the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition are out of order.
The honorable senator is at liberty to make passing reference to other matters.
– The Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) does not like my remarks. The tribunal to which I have referred was composed of two representatives of the Australian Workers Union, two representatives of the farmers, and a chairman, who was an organizer for the Australian Workers Union. It fixed the wages and conditions of men engaged in the harvesting of wheat grown in 1942. Wheat stackers were awarded £9 6s. a week of 48 hours, and were allowed £1 10s. a week for keep, and time and a half for overtime.
– What is wrong with that?
– I shall tell the Minister.
– Will the Leader of the Opposition explain to me how he connects the matter he is now discussing with the question before the Chair?
– While members of the Australian Workers Union employed as stackers were to receive 3s. 3d. an hour for eight hours a day, plus keep, the sons of farmers in the wheat belts are fighting in the Army for 6s. 6d. a day, and receiving nothing for overtime. In an award covering harvesting operations . in the wheat industry which was delivered towards the end of 1942, there was a clause which provided that in all appointments preference must be given to members of the Australian Workers Union. There is no mention in that award of preference to returned soldiers. In the opinion of the Opposition, this matter should be placed above party politics by being incorporated in the legislation of the country. The Commonwealth Parliament should set an example to employers throughout the Commonwealth. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) says that the amendment will not help the returned soldiers; but I point out that it would give preference to them not only in appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service, but also in appointments to such bodies as the Australian “Wheat Board, the Barley Board, and other bodies appointed by the Commonwealth. Labour stalwarts on the Government benches are prepared to give preference to unionists because they know that the unionists contribute to the funds of the Australian Labour party. Surely it is reasonable that men who return from the battle-fields shall be given preference ! The Postmaster-General says that the proposal does not go far enough because Darwin is not a combat area. It rests with the Government of which he is a member to declare Darwin a combat area. Members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are stationed there, and also in some other parts of Australia, perform the hazardous work of flying to Timor and other islands north of Australia to attack enemy positions; if any one is entitled to preference, surely they are.
– They will get it with a Labour government in office.
– Under the proposal before the committee they will get preference if the Government likes to declare Darwin a combat area.
Under section 46 of the Repatriation Act, the term “ members of the forces “ is defined. It includes the Australian Imperial Force, the Militia, nurses, members of the women’s auxiliaries, the Navy, the Air Force, and of the Permanent Forces who have served outside Australia. I appeal to the Government to accept that definition for the purposes of this amendment. It will not he popular with the Australian Labour party executive, or with the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, or with some union secretaries.
– That is a cowardly approach to the subject.
– Let us get away from sickly sentiment to radiant reality; let us make this preference the law of the land. If we are to be worthy of the sacrifices that these men are making, let this be the first step to assist them. Then let the Commonwealth persuade first the States, and then private employers, to follow its example. If this
Parliament has not the power to enforce the preference, let it be done by agreement, so long as the soldiers will know that something of real and permanent value has been done, in that preference to them is the law of the land.
– .After listening to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), I am convinced that the case of the Opposition must be weak for its leader to stoop to personalities and abuse, instead of engaging in sound argument. I shall compare the record of the Menzies Government with that of the present Government in the matter of the treatment of servicemen generally. Let us see what was done in the first two years of the war, when Senator Collett was Minister for Repatriation. There was no talk of preference to returned soldiers during the first two years of the war.
– The previous Government did not talk; it acted.
– That Government did not take action to increase the pay of the men of the fighting forces until forced to do so by the then Opposition. I remind Senator Collett that during the regime of the Menzies Government the rate of pay of militiamen was reduced from 8s. to 5s. a day. That was a repudiation of an undertaking given when men enlisted in the Militia. Those are facts which the people of this country will remember. The present Government has done such a good job that the people will return it in increased strength.
– If so, God help them !
– It would be a tragedy for Australia if the present Government were not returned at the next general elections. As Senator Amour has rightly stated, there are now five or six different parties in the Opposition, each wearing out shoe leather running to the other groups in an effort to obtain unanimity so that they may embarrass the Government. When I recall the number of appointments that he made when Minister for Commerce, I am astounded at what the Leader of the Opposition said about the various boards that have been appointed. I could point to many appointments made by previous governments in which the principle of preference to returned soldiers was not recognized. Senator Collett will not deny that I have fought for preference to returned soldiers. Public affairs in this country are becoming sordid, indeed, when a matter of such importance as preference to returned soldiers is made the plaything of party politics. No previous government ever thought of amending the Repatriation Act.
– That is not true.
– When the Opposition learned that the Government had a bill in preparation to deal with this subject, it tried to forestall the Government’s intention. In dealing with this subject we must not overlook the claims of members of the mercantile marine. I take off my hat to them. The proposal before the committee does not admit their right to recognition. As the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) has said, notice has already been given of the introduction of a measure to give effect to the principle of preference to returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service. Is that not sufficient?
– The Opposition want3 this subject to become the plaything of politics- Its members seek to make political propaganda out of it. But that propaganda will not influence the returned soldier. He knows that, during the sixteen months that the present Government has been in office, it has done much for members of the fighting forces. Men left these shores to go to the Middle East and New Guinea knowing that the Government would, care for their dependants should they themselves not return. What did the Menzies Government do for the fighting forces? All this propaganda is merely so much political trickery - an attempt to score a point for the Opposition parties. The people will not be gulled by the fact that the Opposition has the numbers, to defeat the Government in this chamber, because they know what the present Government has done for members of the fighting forces and what it will do for them if it remains in office. They know that already it has done more for servicemen than any other government has done.
– Why does not the Government agree to the proposal now before the committee?
– A Labour government will give them more than is covered by the proposed new clause.
– It purports to provide for preference to returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service; but there is no machinery in the Repatriation Act for that to be done.
– No machinery is necessary.
– The Government wishes this bill to be passed into law as soon as possible. The Opposition has the numbers to delay the bill, but it will not deceive the soldiers.
– Why all this heat?
– I am not without concern for the members of the fighting forces. My sons have done their part in this war, and I am proud of them. One of them will not need to be repatriated. I agree with Senator Wilson that this country owes much to its soldiers, and that, when peace arrives and the process of demobilization begins, they should not be thrown on the industrial scrap-heap, as happened after the last war. On that occasion many men came back from various fighting fronts broken in health, and hopeless. They were herded in camps, where they were paid £1 Ss. a week for two days’ work.
– Those conditions did not exist until twelve years after the war.
– They should not have happened at all. If a country is worth fighting for, the men who fight .for it should be entitled to a living and a home in it. The present Government has made some preparation for the time when the men will return. This bill provides for them conditions which are acceptable’ to members of all political parties. Honorable senators ‘opposite, in attempting to stultify our efforts by supporting a proposal of this kind, ere not playing the game. The returned soldiers of this war will not accept anything like the conditions of life which the returned soldiers were forced to endure after the last war. We should do all we can for the returned soldiers. Indeed, no monetary consideration would be sufficient to repay our men for the services they are rendering in Papua and New Guinea. The Leader of the Opposition referred to Darwin. I point out to him that the biggest list of casualties among civilians was suffered hi Darwin. Listening to honorable senators opposite, one would think that we were now sitting at the peace table, instead of .fighting for our existence as a nation. I warn them that they will divide the country from end to end should they continue their present tactics. Instead of giving effect to the measure, which they have accepted, as soon as possible, they are now endeavouring to insert in it a provision which is quite foreign to it. They are heedless of the promise given by the Prime Minister that the Government will provide for preference in employment to returned soldiers in a bill of which notice has been given in the House of Representatives. 1 sincerely hope that this measure will not be made the plaything of party politics. I urge honorable senators opposite to review their position in this matter. Of course, they have the numbers to carry the amendment. However, they cannot fool the people, or the returned soldiers, by attempting to provide for preference of employment to returned soldiers in legislation which does not provide the machinery necessary to implement that provision.
.- -1 am surprised at the heat which has been engendered in this debate. I thought that my proposal would have been agreed to an hour ago. I shall not withdraw it. However, I am prepared to agree to a postponement of this debate for an hour or so, provided Ministers will allow me to consult with them, with a view to recasting the clause, in order to provide for preference in employment to returned soldiers in every industry, whether it be controlled by the Government or private enterprise; and also with a view to providing for a similar preference to merchant seamen. Honorable senators will recall that I made certain representations last night in support of claims of merchant seamen.
– Merchant seamen are not covered by the bill.
– No; that is why “1 did not attempt to make provision in respect of them in my proposal. If the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) would guarantee that the bill, as amended along the lines I have just indicated, would be agreed to in the House of Representatives, I should be prepared to withdraw the proposed new clause. However, in its present form it is much better from the point of view of the returned soldiers than the shandygaff measure of which notice has been given in the House of Representatives. Section S3 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act provides for preference in employment to returned soldiers with the qualification that they are competent to do the work required. I have no doubt that that qualification will be re-applied in the bill of which notice has been given in the House of Representatives. I point out that the Commonwealth Public Service Act does not cover employees on the Commonwealth railways, or in lighthouses, or employees of contractors who are working on government contracts. Neither does it apply to employees of any Commonwealth commission, or board, or other bodies which are carrying out work at the Government’s expense. On the 2nd May, 1930, both Houses rocked with agitation resulting from action taken by the Scullin Government to replace the provision for preference in employment to returned soldiers by preference to unionists. That Government was soundly beaten on that issue, and, to its credit, it dropped the proposal. The Government should not hesitate to insert in every contract it lets a proviso that all successful tenderers shall give preference to returned soldiers. . However, even if this proviso were inserted in all government contracts, a future government might not observe that principle. Therefore, I am determined to have this guarantee of preference of employment to returned soldiers on all government works set out clearly in black and white in this bill. The objection has been raised that our repatriation legislation does not provide the machinery necessary to implement this principle. Clause 44 of the bill covers that objection. I have in my hand telegrams which I have received from soldiers’ organizations from all parts of the Commonwealth urging me not to give in on this issue.
– Has the honorable senator received any from New South Wales? Read the telegrams aloud.
– One telegram reads, “ Riverina diggers appreciate your fight. All behind you. Stick firm “. In November last, the Federal Congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia unanimously resolved to press for preference in employment for returned soldiers in every industry, whethe’r it is controlled by the Government or by private enterprise. Therefore, on this matter I speak on behalf of the great majority of returned soldiers. Indeed, if this Parliament had power to make such provision, I should go further and provide that all State governments and local governing authorities should give preference in employment to returned soldiers if they are allowed to qualify for that preference.
– What preference will the honorable senator give to the tens of thousands of young Australian soldiers who are not required to leave these shores?
– I should give them the same preference as I” am prepared to give to all soldiers.
– It is clear that honorable senators opposite are slightly muddled when they support a proposal to insert in a repatriation measure a clause to make the Repatriation Commission responsible for ensuring that preference in employment is given to returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service, and also by every contractor who receives a contract from the ‘Government. Such action would be understandable if no other statute made provision forpreference in employment to returned soldiers; but that provision is definitely made, in section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which provides that a returned soldier who is registered shall, if fit for the work required, be given the job. Honorable senators opposite are aware of that provision in that act. They are also aware that the Government has promised to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives to-morrow for the purpose of amending that act by extending that provision to cover returned soldiers of this war, and in several other directions. I was a little surprised to hear the lawyers opposite declare that the proposed new clause is in order. However, I am completely nonplussed to find. Senator A. J. Mclachlan, Senator Gibson, Senator Allan MacDonald, Senator Poll, Senator McBride, Senator Collett, and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), all of whom have been in governments which, were responsible for the conduct of the war for twelve months after its outbreak, now endeavouring to mislead the people on this issue. They must be fooling themselves if they really believe that the Repatriation Commission can be made responsible for ensuring that preference in employment is given to returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service and by all contractors doing government work, when, at the same time, they know that section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act covers all government employees in the Public Service, whilst employees of contractors carrying out government contracts are covered by the National Security Act. Indeed, a government which they supported agreed to insert in the latter act the provision that all contractors should pay award wages to employees engaged on Government contracts. Therefore, I cannot understand how they can gull themselves in the belief that they can fool the people by supporting this clause. They are also aware that the bill to be introduced in the House of Representatives to-morrow will provide a greater measure of preference to returned soldiers than is provided in the amendment. I suggest in all seriousness to Senator Brand that he should not fool himself by persisting with his proposal. The only section of the Repatriation Act which provides for preference in employment to returned soldiers deals specifically with employees engaged by the commission itself. I regret, Mr. Chairman, that you have ruled that the proposed new clauS(‘ is in order. Last week, honorable senators opposite, particularly the lawyers, raised an outcry about tacking. The same honorable senators are now supporting something that is infinitely worse than tacking. I say without hesitation that Senator Brand has always endeavoured to do what he can do to assist returned soldiers. I advise him that he is not doing a service to them by seeking to embody this clause in the bill. Therefore, I appeal to- the honorable senator to interview the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) immediately, and ascertain from him the provisions of the bill to be introduced in the House of Representatives to-morrow. I am confident that if he did so he would return convinced that he ought to withdraw the clause. I appeal him to ascertain first what is in the mind of the Prime Minister.
– The Minister for External Territories (Senator Eraser) paid me the doubtful compliment just now of pointing an accusing finger at me and saying that during the period in which I was Minister for Repatriation I did nothing to prepare the way for measures necessary to meet prospective commitments. The Minister never intentionally misleads this chamber, but he does very frequently speak in entire ignorance of the facts. On this occasion he was particularly ‘unfortunate, because before I was Minister for Repatriation, but while I was a member of the Government, I prepared for the information of Cabinet a broad survey of repatriation measures and of what would be required in the future, and, whether the Minister knows it or not, the report of the special committee was very much influenced by that report of mine, which was submitted in November, 1940.
– The Minister for External Territories did not deny that the honorable senator had rendered service to the returned soldiers. He said that the honorable senator’s Government did nothing.
– The Minister said that I did nothing.
– As a member of that Government. What the honorable senator did did not crystallize into legislation, but we have given the country the best repatriation bill that he ever heard of.
– If any chamber ever suffered from excessive talk on the part of its leader, it is this one.
– I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to one point that has not yet been made in connexion with preference, although I believe that the thought that I am about to express was in the mind of Senator A. J. McLachlan. Preference to returned soldiers, or preference to unionists, whichever honorable senators like, does not amount to very much when there are not sufficient positions to go around. In the depression years preference to returned soldiers did not help them in the slightest, because the positions were not there, and in the case of preference to unionists, the members of the unions would have been in the same category. I believe that merely by saying that they are going to give preference, honorable senators opposite will do nothing to give effect to their expressed desires. The time will come, if it has not already arrived, when we shall have to say that we will guarantee, as Senator Wilson suggested last night, not merely preference but jobs to returned soldiers. This matter must be viewed in that light. I thought that Senator Leckie was rather unfair to the Government when he asked “ What is the game? “ I find it difficult to reconcile a remark of that kind with the compliments that have been paid by members of the Opposition to the Government for what it proposes to do. If the Opposition is good enough to pay a tribute to the Government for what it proposes to do now, surely it is not asking members of the Opposition too much to ask them to accept the Prime Minister’s assurance that a separate bill will be brought down upon which the whole position can be argued on its merits, particularly in the light of the situation that is likely to develop when there are more returned soldiers offering for employment than there are positions to be filled. That is the important aspect which should be kept in mind. I am perfectly certain that, if we were in opposition and had the assurance of Senator McLeay, as head of the Government in the Senate, that the
Government would introduce a bill on which we could discuss the question, we would accept it, because I do not think that Senator McLeay would break his word in that respect any more than the Prime Minister would. Nobody questions Senator Brand’s sincerity or his desire to do for the returned soldiers what he believes should be done, but I point out to him that paragraph 2 of his new clause practically makes the contractor the sole judge of whether the returned soldier who offers his services is competent or not. I do not think that that is what Senator Brand intends. Assume for a moment that the Government lets a contract for a building and the contractor advertises for carpenters, plumbers, plasterers, tilers, slaters and other tradesmen, and on questioning the returned soldier applicants expresses the opinion, as he has the right to do, that they are not competent, because they have been away from the trade so long, and are not au fait with modern requirements, and particularly with the requirements of the government specifications. Then Senator Brand says in effect that the contractor’s word shall be the last on the subject. The honorable senator says that the contractor shall employ returned soldiers, but he adds the qualifying words “who are competent for the work required “. Those are exactly the same words as are contained in the Public Service Regulations or the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
– “Will the Minister vote for the amendment if I take out those words?
– No ; what _ I suggest to the honorable senator is this: he can put those words into the bill by carrying the proposal, but how is he going to implement them? The Government says in all sincerity, and intends to honour its promise, that it will bring down a separate bill to deal with the matter. Senator Collett referred to paragraph 22 of the special committee’s report. He wants to make this a matter of public policy, but I am certain that he would not say that the inclusion of this clause in the bill is going to make it public policy. It will do nothing of the sort. As regards Labour’s attitude to returned soldiers, I remind honorable senators that it was the Labour men who, more than anybody else, principally because they were so closely associated with the effects of the depression, did all that they possibly could in the depression years to provide not only returned soldiers but all capable and willing workers with the opportunity of earning a decent livelihood. We directed attention to that over and over again in the Senate, and we were told that the money was not available. I direct attention to that fact in order to prove that the Government is just as sincere as the Opposition in saying that not only returned soldiers but all workers must be provided with the opportunity to obtain a living. I was much impressed with the speech made recently by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Winston Churchill, with regard to providing better conditions for men and women to work in after the war. The subject requires a great deal more than is contained in this clause. We have submitted evidence of our sincere desire to do justice to returned soldiers, in the bill which is now before the Senate. That .should justify the Opposition in accepting our assurance that a separate bill will be brought forward and discussed on its merits. By that means we can debate, not merely preference, but how it shall be applied, and how we can make it as certain as is humanly possible that all men who return capable and willing to work shall at least be provided with the opportunity of earning a livelihood.
– Reference has been made during the course of this debate to a matter which I regard as personal to myself, it being stated that a company with which I have been associated since 1920 did not give preference to returned soldiers. I am prepared to give preference to them, not only in this limited way, but to the fuller extent indicated by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron). I shall support the principle throughout, but, in justice to the men who were associated with me as directors of- that company, I must say that we selected, as our executive staff, men who had fought in Flanders and the Middle East during the last wai-. Some of them are still with us. When I mention the name of one of my co-directors, 1 do not think that any more aspersions of that sort will he cast upon the company. I had no association with it prior to 1920, but from that date onwards Sir John Monash served as a co-director with me to the time of his death, and I was proud to serve with him. He was a man who respected the returned soldiers, and did everything he could for them. I cannot understand this fury against the proposal, which I am sure is workable. There is no difficulty whatever about it. It is all moonshine to suggest that it cannot be given effect to. We are asked to withdraw it. It does not go as’ far as I would like, because, I would go, as I indicated to the Senate this afternoon, to the fullest extent possible. I would compel, not only the Government, but also all forms of private enterprise to give preference to returned soldiers. I think that the Government has the power, if it has the courage, to give preference to those who are guarding our lives and contributing to the safety of the nation.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) in his brief speech this evening made one statement which I desire to contradict. He said that the Government did. not carry out the provisions regarding preference to returned soldiers in the departments of the Commonwealth Public Service. He was in error in that statement. The act is administered by an independent Public Service Commissioner. Any suggestion that it has not been carried out is a reflection, not only upon the Government, but also upon the officers administering the legislation. A great deal of heat has been engendered, in this debate. I believe that every man in the chamber has his mind on the one objective, and we differ only as to the procedure by which it should be reached. I have had the opportunity of discussing briefly the legislation which is to be introduced in the House of Representatives in consonance with the promise made by the Prime
Minister (Mr. Curtin) some days ago. If Senator Brand had an opportunity to examine the legislation which is to be brought down to deal with this matter, he would realize that it goes much further than his amendment. We all agree that the Commonwealth Public Service Act must be amended as it is so limited in its scope, and does not take into account the new arms of our fighting services which have come into existence since the last war. For instance, provision will have to be made for the mercantile marine, the omission of which from the clause was referred to by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings). Also, there are hundreds of men working in battle areas to-day under the control of the Department of the Interior. As these men are sharing many of the risks to which soldiers are subjected, provision will have to he made for them in our repatriation legislation. It is ridiculous to attempt to insert a provision such as this into the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. So far as I know, no similar provision is included in any other repatriation legislation. All previous governments have been content to leave the matter to the Commonwealth Public Service Act, a practice which I suggest has operated reasonably well. I say to Senator Brand that in the past, in a majority of cases, preference given to returned soldiers in this country has not been worth while, and for any one to suggest that honorable senators on any particular side of the chamber are the sole advocates of our fighting men, is absurd. We did not hear complaints from honorable senators opposite when the waterside workers were banned from the wharfs, and 1,028 returned soldiers had their livelihood taken away from them. Senator Foll and. Senator A. J. McLachlan will remember that. It was an atrocious act. I know what happened, because I was a member of the Disputes Committee at the time, and participated in many debates which ensued in the House of Representatives. No member of this chamber will quibble about the rights of returned soldiers, but the strict application to private enterprise of preference to returned soldiers is nearly impossible. As the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) and Senator Amour have pointed out, the clause is qualified by the words “ who are competent for the work required “. In my opinion, it will be twice as difficult to interpret that qualification clearly than it has been to interpret the phrase “ other things being equal “. I know what difficulties have arisen in that regard, because during my term of office in the Australian Railways Union I came in contact with scores of such cases. A very pertinent point was raised by Senator Amour in the course of his excellent speech, namely, that the returned soldiers’ organizations whose representatives visited Canberra for the passing of this legislation, did not seek the insertion of a provision such as this. Apparently, the honorable senator has received certain telegrams from the Riverina district, but I remind him that that is a very small portion of New South Wales. The Prime Minister has given a definite promise that certain legislation will be introduced giving effect to what is sought by this proposal, but in a much wider way. Although it be carried, it is probable that subsequent legislation will still be necessary. Senator Brand’s proposal is half-baked, is badly drafted and inadequate. It will not cover the main offender in regard to preference, namely, the private employer. For instance, John Smith is the owner of large iron works and; Brown is a digger home from the war. Before he enlisted Brown was a good artisan. Upon his return, he approaches his former employer and he is informed that his name will be noted. However, being partly incapacitated he is passed over. Honor able senators know that that happened in hundreds of cases. Senator A. J. McLachlan said that we should go the “whole hog”, but despite the fact that he held office in previous governments for many years, he made no attempt to take the action which he is advocating to-day.
With all due respect to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I say that this clause is not relevant to the bill. However, I bow to your decision, whilst reserving my own views upon the matter. In my opinion, it is an intrusion upon the best legislation that the soldiers of this country have ever had.
In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) drew attention to the littleknown fact that Australia treats its returned men better than does any other country. I trust that we shall continue to do so, but I am afraid that if this clause be carried chaos will result. We shall be doing something that the re turned soldiers’ organizations do not want, and, after all, they should know. The insertion of the proposed new clause will not improve the bill in any way, and when the measure returns to the House of Representatives, the. proposal will be rejected, and people will be justified in saying that Senator Brand, whom they believed to be a friend of the diggers, had such poor judgment that he helped to spoil the best repatriation bill that has ever been introduced into this Parliament.
Motion (by Senator Foll) put -
That the question he now put.
The committee divided. (TheChairman - Senator Brown.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the new clause (Senator Brand’s amendment )be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Brown.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
New clause agreed to.
Clause 43 -
After section fifty-six of the Principal Act, the following Part is inserted: - “ Part IVa. - Parliamentary Standing Committee on Repatriation.”
– I hope that honorable senators will not accept this proposed new section. The special committee on repatriation made no recommendation that such a body should be set up, and I can see no reason for this provision unless the Government, recognizing the value of the work done by that committee, desires to perpetuate it in the form provided in this clause. Proposed new section 56m reads - (1.) The Committee shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, consider and reportto the Parliament upon every matter affecting repatriation policy which either House of the Parliament, by resolution, refers to the Committee and upon every other such matter affecting repatriation policy referred to the Committee by the Minister.
That would not be objectionable if the proposed new section ended there, but it further provides - (2.) The Minister may refer to the Committee any such matter concerning repatriation policy which the Commission or any organization representing members of the Forces requests him to refer to the Committee.
We have had testimony that, during the last twenty years, the Repatriation Commission, as an independent body, and under the powers conferred upon it by the Parliament, has done excellent work. No fault was found with its administration during the inquiry conducted by the special committee, and because I desire the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) to remain in control of the repatriation policy I ask honorable senators to reject this clause. If I were Minister for Repatriation, with the experience I may have behind me at present, the last thing I should desire would be an extraneous body between myself and the Repatriation Commission.
– I fail to understand the attitude of Senator Collett. There is every justification for the appointment of the proposed statutory committee to safeguard the interests of the returned soldier. I said last night that this bill is so far-reaching in its effects that it will have some application to practically every home in Australia. A statutory committee operating in the same way as the Broadcasting Committee could do a great deal of good in matters in which the interests of returned soldiers might be at stake.
– The Broadcasting Committee is already making a nuisance of itself.
– That committee has merely taken evidence in connexion with matters referred to it by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley).
– That is different from what that committee has said in its reports.
– Its reports have dealt only with matters referred to it by the Government and the proposed Repatriation Committee would be in a similar position. It would inquire into matters referred to it by either branch of the legislature, by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) or by the Repatriation Commission. It is wrong to suggest that such, investigations would hinder the Minister. It might be in the interests of the commission and also of the Minister for inquiries to be carried out by the committee. There need be no fear in accepting this proposed new section, because at all times the committee could be trusted to act in the interests of the returned soldiers, who would thus be assured of a fair deal. If a soldier had been refused a pension he could write to the Minister, who could then refer the matter to the committee. His case or a number of similar cases might justify such action. The Government has now consented to grant war pensions to soldiers suffering from tuberculosis, although over a period of years they have been refused pensions on the ground that their disabilities were not due to war service. What, one might ask, will now be the position of the widows of deceased soldiers who were the victims of tuberculosis, but who were not paid a war pension? Would not that be an important matter which might well be investigated’ by the proposed Repatriation Committee? That is only one of many matters that might be mentioned as appropriate for consideration by the committee.
– I trust that honorable senators will reject this provision. There has been far too great a tendency recently to superimpose one tribunal upon another. When the Repatriation Commission was set up in 1920, the underlying idea was that it should be free from political influence. The commission was entrusted with the interpretation of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act without fear or favour or intimidation by political parties. The special committee on repatriation, on whose recommendations this bill is largely founded, was quite satisfied that the commission had interpreted the act sympathetically, and had given to the soldier a fair deal. That is one of the reasons why I am opposed to the establishment of the proposed statutory committee. We already have ample machinery for dealing with repatriation matters. No request has been made by the returned soldiers’ organizations for such a tribunal, and, in my opinion, its appointment is quite unnecessary. In some instances its operations might prove mischievous. Obviously, if such a body were set up on a permanent basis, it would be inundated at the outset by appeals from individual “ diggers “, who imagined that they had just grievances, to individual members of the committee. Individual members of Parliament might then approach the Minister, informing him that they had received letters from certain ex-soldiers, and asking him to refer their grievances to the committee. The committee itself would be constantly pestered by disgruntled returned men who iri fact had no case. To set up another tribunal of this kind would be dangerous, and at times the committee would probably be at loggerheads with the Repatriation Commission. To-day the Minister has the assistance of the Repatriation Commission, and there are also the War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal and the War Pensions Assessment Tribunal. There are also the deputy commissioners in each State, and there are the State boards. Why in the name of common sense should we superimpose upon those tribunals another parliamentary committee ? The sponsor of this proposal, who is a member of the House of Representatives, has a mania for the appointment of boards, committees and commissions. The proposal is unsound and I hope that it will be rejected. Recently the Government appointed expert committees to coordinate the Army educational scheme and the post-war training plan. If theproposed committee were appointed it is almost certain that it would set out to investigate the work of these expert committees. That would mean interference by untrained men with the work of experts. I hope that thecommittee will not agree to the setting; up of the proposed standing committee. The proposal is unsound, and the existence of such a body would be a continual’ nuisance to the Minister and the Repatriation Commission.
– The bill before us is largely the outcome of recommendations made by a special’ committee consisting of members of all”, parties in the Parliament.
– The special committee did not recommend the appointment of a standing committee.
– The special committee discussed various anomalies and shortcomings in the existing legislation, after which it submitted a report to the Government.
– It did a good job.
– It did a good job prior to the introduction of this bill and it should be capable of doing a good job after the passing of the bill, particularly in regard to the enforcement of the principle of preference to returned soldiers with which this committee has just dealt. How is it proposed to enforce that principle? I suggest that it can be done only by earnest men, representative of all parties in politics, meeting together to discuss various problems dispassionately, with a view to coming to an agreement which can be embodied in a report for consideration by the Parliament. “Whatever progress the world has made has been the result largely of consultations by earnest men and women. The last word has not yet been said on this subject. If we want to get the best results with the least amount of friction and inconvenience to the returned soldiers, we should have in existence a committee such as that which was largely responsible for this bill.
-. - I am opposed to this proposed new section. Already there is too much political interference with people who are trying to do a good job. The existing Repatriation Commission has done good work, but the proposal now is to set up a parliamentary committee to interfere with it. Should the proposed repatriation committee be established it will need its own staff, and there will be a general slowing up of the work of the Repatriation Commission. The country is already bound by red tape. Should the present Government continue in office much longer almost every second person in the community will be a member of some board or commission, drawing travelling expenses and having some other person working for him, until the whole system will break down of its own weight. I cannot see any necessity for this new body to supervise the work of the Repatriation Commission. Should it be established, there will soon be an agitation for some other committee to supervise its work, and so on, ad infinitum. It would appear that it is the desire of the Government that every person in the community should interfere with the business of some one else. Instead of doing that, let us get on with the job of winning the war. Let the racket of appointing boards and commissions come to an end.
Senator ARTHUR (New South Wales ; [10.6]. - The proposal before the committee cannot be separated from the principle of preference to returned soldiers with which the committee has just dealt. What would be the duties of the committee which it is proposed to set up? This committee has just decided that preference in employment in respect of positions in the Public Service of the
Commonwealth, or under the direction of an authority of the Commonwealth, shall be given to persons who have been members of the forces and have served outside Australia, or in any area prescribed as a combat area for the purposes of this act and who are competent for the work required. A standing committee could report whether, during the past 25 years, that principle has been observed in the creation of the bureaucracy which the Parliament has created, and which has resulted in some “ nitwits “ being elevated to positions as heads of departments of the Commonwealth Public Service. I desire to know what will be the position of the young men and young women in the forces who have not passed an examination entitling them to appointment in the Commonwealth Public Service. Is provision to be made only for preference to sons and daughters of wealthy men, but not for the children of the navvy? A matter of that kind might well’ be investigated by the proposed repatriation committee.
Another matter with which the committee could deal would be to ensure that the principle of preference to returned soldiers is given effect in respect of all contracts entered into with the Commonwealth for the performance of works or services. No honorable senator opposite has given a clear interpretation of the provision with which the committee had just dealt in relation to the application of preference to government contracts. How many returned service men and women can find employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, or with contractors doing work for the Commonwealth? The proposed repatriation committee might well investigate the adherence to the principle of preference to returned soldiers by the Baillieu group or the financial international group which controls the Opposition in this Parliament.
– No one controls me.
– The honorable senator said that there was no request from any organization of returned soldiers for this repatriation committee.
– None whatever.
– Evidently those with whom the honorable senator associates believes that the proposed committee would be opposed to the Repatriation Commission.
– The honorable senator said that the Repatriation Commission had done a good job.
– That is so.
– Last night the honorable senator probably heard Senator Amour tell of his experiences on his return from the last war. I could supplement his story by relating what I have experienced during the last 24 years.
Another matter which the Repatriation Committee could investigate would be that covered by sub-section 3 of proposed new section 55a with which the committee has just dealt. That subsection refers to commissions, boards, or other bodies created by, or under, any- law of the Commonwealth or territory of the Commonwealth, or which is declared by the Governor-General by proclamation to be an authority for the purposes of this section. Let us see what is likely to happen after the war. What is to happen to that territory of the Commonwealth known as the Northern Territory? Although provision may be made to give preference to certain uniformed people when appointments are being made to the Public Service, not one word has been said about giving preference to those who are not sufficiently well educated to join the Commonwealth Public Service. After all, only a limited number of returned service men and women can be appointed to the Public Service. Many young men and young women who are doing a wonderful job for the nation are not provided for. The proposed repatriation committee would be well employed in inquiring how best the nation can repay them for their services.
.- I oppose the provision, because I do not think that it is necessary at this juncture to appoint a standing committee on repatriation. The departmental officials who have the responsibility of administering this legislation are best qualified to advise the Government regarding anomalies or shortcomings as they are discovered. I am sure that they will recommend any improvement which they find to be necessary. In addition, honorable members of the Parliament will be made aware of anomalies as they are discovered ; and I have no doubt that they will advise the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) accordingly. I believe that the new provisions should be given a trial for, say, twelve months. At the end of that period a special committee could be appointed to review our repatriation legislation if that be deemed necessary. At present, however, I cannot see any reason for the appointment of the proposed committee.
Clause 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 -
The First Schedule to the Principal Act is repealed and the following Schedule inserted in its stead: - “The First Schedule …”
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by inserting the following paragraph at the end of the proposed new First Schedule: - “The rate of pension (if any) which would, apart from this provision, be payable to the widow of a member of the Forces, who dies while serving as such, and her children until the expiration of the period of six months next succeeding the date on which the widow was first notified of the death of the member shall bc increased to such extent as will ensure the payment of a pension in respect of herself and her children at an aggregate rate equivalent to the aggregate rate of payments which would have been made to her, by way of allotment and dependants allowance, during that period of six months if the member had not died, but not exceeding the aggregate rate of such payments by way of allotment at the standard rate, applying in respect of the member, and dependants allowance or, if there is no such standard rate, not exceeding such rate as is prescribed.”.
The new paragraph is to give effect to a decision of the Government in connexion with an amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). It provides that in the case of death of a member while on service, payments to the widow and children during the period of six months following the notification to her of the death of her husband will be not less than the aggregate of the allotment specified as the standard allotment in her case, plus dependant’s allowance in respect of herself and children.
The present practice is that the Service Department continues payment of allotment and dependant’s allowance for a period sufficiently long, from one month to two months, to enable the claim for pension to be determined. Pensionis then paid at the rate in accordance with the act, but in future, for such period of the six months that payment is by way of pension, the rate of pension will be not less than the aggregate of standard allotment and dependant’s allowance for the widow and children.
Request agreed to.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by adding at the end of the clause the following subclause: - “ (2.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, the second paragraph of the footnote to the First Schedule inserted in the principal act by this act shall come into operation on and from the day on which this act receives the Royal Assent and shall extend to the case of any member of the Forces of whose death the widow was first notified within six months prior to that day but increased pension in accordance with that paragraph shall be payable only in respect of the period subsequent to that day.”.
This amendment adds a sub-clause to clause 45 of the bill. It relates to the new paragraph to the footnote of the First Schedule, inserted by an amendment, and specifies that the provisions of that paragraph shall operate as from the date of assent to the amending act, and shall apply to cases where notification of death has occurred within six months prior to the date of operation of the paragraph. This is the most equitable way of bringing the new policy into operation; where notification was given, say, three months ago, pension at the increased rate will be payable for the three months subsequent to the date of assent. Where notification was given four months ago, the increased rate will be payable for two months after the date of assent.
Request agreed to.
Clause agreed to subject to requests.
Clauses 46 and 48 agreed to.
Clause 49 negatived.
Clauses 50 to 52 agreed to.
Postponed clause 4 -
Section four of the Principal Act is amended -
Amendment (by Senator Collett) agreed to.
That paragraph (b) be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
First and Second Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with requests and amendments; report adopted.
Bill presented by Senator Collings. Motion (by Senator Collings) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent thebill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the members of the Senate present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Collings) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal purpose of the hill is to ensure that every member of the Australian forces,’ whether on service within or outside the Commonwealth, will be able to record an effective vote at general elections and at any referendum held during the war period. The special voting provided in the 1940 Electoral (Wartime) Act were confined to members of the forces on service outside Australia and, of course, only to those not under the age of 21 years. It is proposed by this measure to remove both those limitations.
Honorable senators are aware that in 1940 the majority of the troops within Australia were located in training camps at convenient centres, and, if qualified, the men were able, without undue difficulty, to satisfy themselves as to their enrolment and to record their votes under the ordinary provisions of the law. The position to-day is materially different. The numerical strength of the services ha3 been greatly increased with the majority now within Australia itself, large numbers being located in northern areas distant from ordinary administrative centres. While every effort has been made to preserve the enrolment of the adult members, it would-be futile to claim that this has been fully successful. Moreover, of the many thousands of young men and women who have attained the age of 21 years whilst on service, relatively few have taken, or are likely to take, immediate action to secure enrolment for their home addresses. The result is that a substantial percentage of those now with the forces in Australia, although qualified for enrolment, are not at present enrolled on the electoral rolls and accordingly could not effectively record their votes at an election under the ordinary provisions of the law. Furthermore, the majority of those on service in the northern areas of the Commonwealth has been drawn from the more populous southern States and, as the law stands, even where duly enrolled, could vote only under the extremely cumbersome postal voting provisions. This would involve almost insuperable difficulties and assuredly would result in chaos and widespread complaint. Many would fail to apply for a postal vote or to apply in time. Divisional returning officers in some northern divisions probably would be deluged with applications - many ineffectively completed - which would disrupt their proper .attention to the general arrangements for the conduct of the elections, while in a large number of cases the ballot papers would not reach the applicants until after the close of the poll or the divisional returning officer concerned in time for admission to the scrutiny. The application of the special voting provisions of- the 1940 act to members of the forces within Australia as well as those outside the Commonwealth will overcome all the difficulties mentioned since under those provisions every man and woman on service will be entitled to vote at the unit voting place in respect of the division in which he or she was ordinarily resident immediately prior to appointment or enlistment whether enrolled therefor or not. This extension of the special provisions mentioned is amply justified in that it will ensure that no member of the forces shall, through absence on defence service, be deprived of the opportunity of exercising his or her electoral rights. As already indicated, provision is made in this bill for the extension of the franchise to those members of the forces who are under the age of 21 years. The Government holds the view that any man or woman who, either voluntarily or by decree of this Parliament, has taken upon himself or herself the burden and the responsibility of service in defence of the nation and its people, has surely earned the right to vote. The Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1918 extended the franchise to include persons under 21 years of age who were or had been members of the forces on service overseas in the previous world war and further, that the Canadian Parliament passed legislation in 1940 enabling Canadian men and women on active service who are under the age of 21 years to vote at dominion elections.
Apart from the principal features referred to, the bill contains a number of additions or amendments relating to the machinery employed in the taking of the votes of the members of the forces generally. While for reasons of practicability it is necessary outside Australia, and in the Northern Territory, to use the defence organization itself as the agency through which the votes shall be recorded and gathered, it is considered desirable that within the Australian States this service should be carried out by polling officials directly appointed and controlled by the Commonwealth electoral officers in the same manner as that which obtains at the ordinary polling places. Provision has been included in this bill accordingly. It is proposed that the lists of candidates which are printed and supplied to the service voting places shall include the party designations of the candidates instead of their addresses and occupations, and further, that not only must a copy of the list be posted in a conspicuous position in each booth but also that each polling official shall, when handing a voter his ballot-paper, direct his attention to the list and to the fact that the parties represented by the respective candidates may be ascertained therefrom. This, it is considered, will materially assist the voters in the recording of their votes in accordance with their real intentions. The reason for the proposed omission of the addresses and occupations of candidates is that their inclusion, while of little or no value, not only greatly increases the costs involved in transmission and printing, but necessitates the information being printed on a number of pages instead of in one broad sheet of the type most suitable for posting at the polling places.
The principal Electoral (War-time) Act at present provides that of the votes recorded by members of the forces in their units overseas only those which reach the Commonwealth returning officer for the area concerned by 8 o’clock in the evening of the day fixed by the writ for the polling shall be admitted to the scrutiny. As this operates with undue harshness upon those most deserving of all - the men in the forward areas - whose votes, in some cases, take days to reach the area head-quarters, provision is made in this bill to extend the period for acceptance of such votes by three days. It will, of course, be understood that in all cases the votes so admitted must have been actually recorded not later than the day fixed by the writ for the polling.
A new provision included in the bill is one applying the special voting pro visions of the Electoral (War-time) Act to the staff and members of the Civil Constructional Corps employed under the direction or authority of the Allied Works Council on works in Australia north of the twenty-sixth parallel, subject however to the requirement that only those who are British subjects and of adult age, and who are otherwise qualified shall be entitled to vote. These men - a considerable number of whom have been drawn from the southern States - and who may be engaged on Defence works in isolated localities - are subject to the same voting disabilities as are members of the forces on service away from their home States.
Two additional proposals contained in the bill provide respectively for the appointment of scrutineers at service voting places and for the unrestricted admission of printed electoral matter to Army camps and other places, and the removal of any restraint upon the distribution of such matter amongst service men. and women. The opportunity presented by this bill has been taken to make provision for the validation of the nomination of any senator or retiring member of the House of Representatives as a candidate at an election, where by reason of absence on service with the DefenceForces that senator or retiring member is not able conveniently to comply with the usual requirements of the law in that regard. Provision also has been made for the addition of Naval, Military and Air Force officers to the list of authorized witnesses for ordinary postal voting purposes. I commend the bill to honorable senators, and urge that it be given a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to remove an anomaly which exists in connexion with interest received by a company from Commonwealth loans to which section 20 of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act or section 52b 2 of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act applies. Interest from loans to which the provisions apply is subject to a concessional rate of income tax,” namely, the rate applying in assessments for the financial year 1930-31. This concessional rate, in the case of a company, is 16d. in the fi. For war-time company tax purposes, interest to which the concessional income tax rates applied was treated as part of the taxable profit and was assessed at the full rates of war-time company tax applicable to the remainder of the taxable profit. The Taxation Department did not regard war-time company tax as an “ income tax “ as defined in the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act. This procedure did not adversely affect any company. As a matter of fact, it actually operated to a company’s advantage. This was due to the fact that the capital invested in the loans from which the interest was received was included as part of the total capital employed by the company on which a statutory deduction of 5 per cent, was allowed. Although the company received such an allowance, the interest on which the tax was imposed represented a return of 4 per cent, or less on the capital invested. The inclusion in the taxable profit of interest representing such a low return on the capital from which it was derived had the effect of reducing the overall percentage of taxable profits to capital and so reducing the rate of war-time company tax chargeable. Notwithstanding the advantage mentioned, a company recently challenged the department’s procedure before the Taxation Board of Review on the ground that the war-time company tax was an “income tax” as defined in the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act, and that the interest should be excluded from the taxable profit. The board upheld the company’s contention that war-time company tax was an “income tax” and decided that as the maximum rate of tax to which the interest could be subjected had already been imposed in the assessment of ordinary income tax, the amount of war-time company tax applicable to the interest must be rebated to the company. The effect of the board’s decision is that, while interest to which the concessional rates of income tax apply will be free from war-time company tax, the companies concerned must, under the existing law, be allowed the statutory deduction of 5 per cent, on the capital invested in the loans from which the interest is derived. Those companies would thus receive a double advantage; once in the freedom of the interest from war-time company tax and again by the allowance of the statutory deduction of 5 per cent, of the capital. The bill proposes to correct this anomaly by providing for the exclusion from the taxable profit of the loan interest to which section 20 of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act or section 52b 2 of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act applies, and also for the exclusion, from the capital employed, of the capital invested in the loans from which the interest is received. It is a natural corollary that, if income from any source is made free from war-time company tax, the capital which earns that income must be excluded from the capital employed. This principle is embodied in the act in connexion with dividends received by a company from any other company. The dividends are exempt from war-time company tax but the capital invested ‘ in the shareholdings which produce the dividends is not taken into account in the calculation of the capital employed by the company. It is proposed that the proposed amendments shall be applied in making assessments for the current financial year and subsequent financial years.
Debate (on motion by Senator .Spicer) adjourned.
.-! move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It affords me much pleasure to bring forward this bill, the main objects of which are to reduce the delay in applying variations of pensions consequent upon fluctuations in the cost of living, to provide allowances to wives and unendowed children of pensioners, and to grant funeral benefits for invalid and oldage pensioners. Honorable senators know that invalid and old-age pensions are subject to fluctuations of 6d. a week in the maximum rate of pension in respect of every variation of at least 21 units in the price index number, provided the standard Tate of £1 5s. per week is not lowered without parliamentary approval. The price index number 1053 which is related to the sum of £1 5s. a week, is based on the “ C “ series cost of living figures in six capital cities, and the new number is usually declared by the ‘Commonwealth Statistician in the third week of January, April, July and October of each year. In pursuance of section 24 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act the new pension rate takes effect as from the first pension pay-day in the next succeeding April, July, October and January respectively. Thus there is usually a delay of approximately ten weeks between the date of declaration of the index figure and the date of payment of the increased pension. Conversely, should the cost of living fall sufficiently to warrant a reduction of the rate of pension, the recipients will have the higher rate for a correspondingly longer period after the fall has been announced. Representations have been made to the Government by organizations and individual pensioners asking that the present system be altered and requesting the introduction of a method more closely resembling that applied to employees who participate in variations of the basic wage. Recognizing the equity of the requests, the Government has decided to amend the existing law with a view to reducing the period that a pensioner has to wait for an increase or reduction of pension. For administrative reasons, principally in connexion with the notifications to postmasters, overprinting of cheques and the fact that while invalid and old-age pensions are payable fortnightly in advance, wages are usually payable at least weekly in arrear, it has been found impossible to bring the two systems absolutely into line. In the circumstances, the best that can be done is to make provision for the cost of living variations in regard to pensions to commence on and from the due date of the last fortnightly instalment in the month succeeding that in which the price index number is declared. To illustrate the benefit that will accrue to pensioners in the event of an increase, the following example is quoted: If an index figure were declared on the 20th April, 1943, under the .present system, the adjustment would be made as from the 8th August, 1943, whereas under the proposed amendment contained in this bill the adjustment would be made as from the 27th May, 1943. The estimated cost of this additional benefit, which will commence in April next, is £50,000, but as it will remove an anomaly operating against pensioners, I feel sure the proposal will have the unanimous support of the Senate.
During its investigations, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Social Security heard evidence in favour of the payment of allowances to the dependants of pensioners. ^1 am sure many honorable senators are familiar with cases of family suffering where the bread-winner is permanently unable to earn. Almost invariably in such cases dependants find themselves in need and, consequently, seek sustenance or food relief under the various State schemes or from charitable organizations. In order to alleviate the position to some degree, the Government has decided to include in this bill provision for financial aid for the wives and unendowed children of invalid pensioners. Subject to the usual means test applicable to invalid and old-age pension claims, it is intended to pay an allowance not exceeding 15s. a week to the wife of an invalid pensioner who is not living apart from her husband. In addition, 5s. per week will be paid to a wife who has the custody, care and control of an unendowed child under the age of sixteen years. Where an invalid pensioner is widowed or is living apart from his wife, provided he has the custody, care and control of an unendowed child, he will be eligible for the allowance of 5s. a week, but following the policy laid down by successive governments, it is proposed that in all normal cases the allowance in respect of a child shall be payable to the mother. The payment of allowances under this bill is contingent upon the continuance of the invalid pension to the bread-winner. Therefore, allowances will not be paid to a person who is, or whose husband is, an inmate of a benevolent asylum or hospital for the insane, and it is not intended to pay an allowance’ to any person who is in receipt of a service pension under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, because under that act the means test is identical with that applicable to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
From the inception of the Commonwealth old-age pensions legislation it has been the practice, subject to other qualifications, to regard every male who has attained the age of 60 years and is permanently incapacitated for work, as eligible to receive an old-age pension. Consequently, many men between the ages of 60 and 65 years, although in fact invalids, are in receipt of old-age pensions. To ensure that a dependent wife who otherwise is eligible, may receive the proposed allowance for the wives of invalid pensioners, it has been decided to amend the relevant section of the act to permit of the husband being granted an invalid pension in lieu of an old-age pension. Statistics in the possession of the Department of Social Services indicate that approximately 14,000 wives and 7,000 unendowed children of invalid pensioners will benefit by this bill and the cost of the allowances, which will commence on 8th July, 1943, will be approximately £640,000 ‘for a full year.
As honorable senators are aware, many pensioners have a fear of being buried as paupers, and as a consequence they contribute to a pensioners’ mortuary fund which, in consideration of the payment of a few pence a week, guarantees a contribution, usually not exceeding £10, towards the cost of burial. In an endeavour to relieve pensioners of this anxiety in their declining years, and at the same time to ensure that the full amount of pension is available to pensioners for their own maintenance, the Government has decided to provide, in respect of deaths occurring on and after 1st July, 1943, an amount not exceeding £30 towards the cost of a pensioner’s burial. Pensioners, or their dependants, may make private arrangements for funerals, but the necessity for pensioners’ mortuary funds will no longer exist, and as the Government is satisfied that their continuance will not serve any useful purpose, these organizations will not be eligible to receive benefits under this bill. It is estimated that about 23,000 pensioners die in each year and consequently the annual cost of this new scheme, which will be a charge against the National Welfare Fund, will be approximately £230,000.
These desirable reforms in our present pensions systems and advances in Commonwealth social legislation will appeal to all who wish to promote the welfare of those whose age, invalidity or adversity compels them to seek some measure of government assistance. Therefore, I feci sure that honorable senators will readily co-operate in their acceptance.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) handed me a copy of this measure earlier to-day, and I have had an opportunity to study it. I understand that the Government is anxious that this bill and the Invalid and Oldage Pensions (Appropriation) Bill 1943 should be passed by the Senate as speedily as possible. The Opposition supports these measures.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
, - I move -
That the bril he now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide £23,000,000 rat of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. Bills seeking appropriation of this nature are submitted to Parliament periodically to enable amounts to be paid to the credit of a trust account, in order that pensions may be paid therefrom at the rates already approved by Parliament. The unexpended balance of previous appropriations is sufficient to meet expenditure up to tie end of May, and Parliament is asked to appropriate £23,000,000 which is sufficient for approximately a year’s expenditure. However, this amount will not be withdrawn from revenue immediately, as payments to the trust account from revenue are made only as required to meet each periodical payment to pensioners. The total expenditure on these pensions in the years 1940-41 and 1941-42 was £17,366,000 and £19,257,000 respectively, whilst the estimate for the current financial year is £22,400,000. This bill has no relation whatever to the rates or conditions under which pensions are paid, but merely seeks funds to enable payments to be made on the basis already approved by Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a very short non-contentious measure, the aim of which is twofold. First, it is designed to protect the superannuation rights of about 70 employees of the Williamstown dockyard who were taken over with the dockyard by the Commonwealth, and who were contributors to the Melbourne Harbor Trust Superannuation Fund. Under the bill, those employees who were contributors may, within a period of three months, requestthat they be gazetted as employees within the meaning of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act. They will transfer to the Commonwealth fund the amount already paid by them to the Harbor Trust Fund and continue their fortnightly contribu tions to the Commonwealth fund. If an employee decides not to transfer to the Commonwealth fund, he will receive a refund of his contributions from the Harbor Trust and may, if he so wishes, come under the Superannuation Act as a new contributor. There are also a large number of other dockyard employees who are not contributors to the Harbor Trust Fund because they have not the required length of service. These employees may count their service with the Harbor Trust as Commonwealth service and on completion of five years’ combined service, will be eligible to come under the Superannuation Act, in the same manner as other temporary employees.
The second purpose of the bill is to amend section 13 of the principal act, so as to give contributors who are contributing for less than the number of units corresponding to their salary groups, another opportunity to elect to take up the additional units involved. As the act stands, many of these contributors would never again be eligible to take further pension units because their salaries will not be raised to higher salary groups. Where a contributor makes an election under this amendment, he will be required to contribute at the higher rates and be subject to medical examination as prescribed by the Superannuation Act 1942.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure has been introduced for the purpose of liberalizing the provision for assisting mothers to meet the heavy financial commitments inseparable from childbirth.From a study of the bill, honorable senators will realize that it provides for a radical departure from the present system under which the maternity allowance is made. The Maternity Allowance Act was introduced in October, 1912, when a uniform rate of £5 was payable without a means test. During the period 1912-31 maternity allowances were paid in respect of 96 per cent, of the births which occurred. In 1931, an income limit was imposed under financial emergency legislation, and since that date both the income limit and the amount of the allowance have been varied on several occasions. Under the present arrangement which has operated since January, 1938, there is an income limit of £247 per annum in the case of the birth of the first child, rising by £13 for each previous surviving child under fourteen years of age in the family until a maximum income limit of £338 is reached, whilst the amount of the allowance is £410s. where there are no other children, £5 where there are one or two other children and £7 10s. where there are three or more other children.
This bill contains three important provisions which, I am sure, will be approved unanimously.First, the means test is entirely removed, and in respect of births which occurred on and after the 1st July, 1943, allowances will be paid irrespective of the financial position of the parents. Secondly, the minimum allowance is raised from £4 10s. to £5, whilst the intermediate rate has been increased by £1 to the amount of £6. Thirdly, and perhaps most important however, is the provision of an allowance of 25s. a week in respect of each of the four weeks immediately preceding and following the birth of the child. This is a new departure in our social legislation, and the Government hopes that it will provide reasonable assistance in meeting the cost of nursing and the domestic attention which is essential at such a time.
The amount of the allowance, which will be determined by the number of surviving children under fourteen years of age at the date of birth, plus the additional payment in respectof the four weeks preceding the birth, will be payable as soon as possible after the receipt of the claim, whilst the balance, representing the allowance for the four weeks immediately following the birth of the child, will be payable at the expiration of that four weeks. The estimated liability for all maternity allowance payments, based upon the new provisions, is £1,990,000, and the expenditure will be a charge on the National WelfareFund. The estimated expenditure for maternity allowances for the current year under existing provisions is £375,000. The Government submits this measure to the Senate with confidence, believing it will be accepted as a real contribution to the welfare of mothers of children, and will go far towards providing the pre-natal and postnatal rest and treatment which are strongly advocated by medical authorities.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In introducing an earlier measure providing for a reduction of the delay of applying the cost-of-living variations to invalid and old-age pensions, I outlined to honorable senators the system which is now in force. The remarks made in submitting that bill for the consideration of the Senate apply largely to the bill now under discussion, because, when this benefit was introduced into Parliament, it was decided that the cost-of-living variations would apply to the payment of widows’ pensions in a manner almost exactly similar to that in force in respect of invalid and old-age pensions. The index number is the same, but there is a difference, because, under section 35 of the Widows’ Pensions Act, the new pension rate commences to accrue from the beginning of the first four-weekly pension period in the quarter following that in which the price index number is declared, and is payable on the day following the completion of that period. In these cases, there is a delay of from ten to fourteen weeks in making the increase available, and, of course, if there were a fall in costs, the recipient would have the higher rate for the longer period.
Because widows’ pensions are payable monthly in arrear, it is not possible to apply the same formula as has been used for the invalid and old-age pensions, and for administrative reasons it is not possible to make payments of increased widows’ pension rates available as early as can be done in the case of basic wageearners. After a careful examination of the position, the Government has decided that the cost-of-living variations in regard to widows’ pensions will take effect as from the beginning of the first pay period commencing in the month next after the month in which the index figure is declared. It is anticipated that the next cost-of-living index figure will be declared on the 20th April, 1943, and, under the present method, adjustment would be made on the 24th August, 1943, for the previous four weeks, whereas, under the proposal in the bill, the adjustment would take place on the 1st June, 1943, for the previous four weeks. The estimated cost of this additional benefit, which will become operative in April next, is £5,000, and I feel sure the Government will have the support of all honorable senators in rectifying the present somewhat anomalous position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
Women’s Employment Board: Remarks by Judge Foster.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I have given consideration to the question raised by Senator Leckie earlier in the day regarding a statement by. Judge Foster, as reported in the Melbourne Herald of Tuesday, the 23rd March, 1943, to the effect that it is a tragedy that the work of the Women’s Employment Board has been frustrated by the Senate. The statement referred to was made by Judge Foster in his capacity as chairman of the Women’s Employment Board, and has been reported in certain newspapers. I do not consider that such reports could be placed in the category of a breach of privilege under Standing Order No. 427.
The question arises whether the Senate would be justified in passing a motion censuring Judge Foster. Such a motion would be in order, but whether it would be appropriate is a matter which the Senate itself should decide. For myself, I do not regard Judge Foster’s remarks as a reflection on the Senate. Honorable senators should keep in mind the right, which members of the public undoubtedly possess, to criticize the actions of their parliamentary representatives.
In May’s Parliamentary Practice, 13th Edition, page 271, it is stated that certain matters cannot be debated except upon a substantive motion. Among these are the conduct of judges. A previous President has ruled, however, that, as chairman of a royal commission, a judge should be no more free from criticism than any other citizen who may preside over an inquiry. I agree with this ruling, and would therefore not disallow criticism of Judge Foster, if such criticism were confined to actions outside his judicial office. This being so, if we criticize him we should allow him to criticize us.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (5).
Senate adjourned at 11.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430324_senate_16_174/>.