17th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from Lady Fairbairn a letter of thanks for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of Sir George Fairbairn.
– Is the
Minister for Trade and Customs taking any steps to relieve the tobacco shortage which prevails at Canberra?
– Arrangements have been made for an increased supply of tobacco at Parliament House, Canberra.
– When will it be available?
– I assume that the Minister refers to supplies of tobacco for members of Parliament and others who are employed at Parliament House. Is the Minister in a position to make supplies available beyond the quota, to members of this Parliament? Will anybody else in Australia have to go short of tobacco on that account? If special concessions can be granted to persons engaged at Parliament House, will he give similar concessions to country people in outback areas who are suffering from a more acute shortage than are the people engaged in this building?
– I have arranged for increased supplies at Parliament House because of the fact that a considerable number of meetings have been held in this building lately. Members of Parliament and the staffs employed at Parliament House number about 400, and I personally ordered an extra supply of tobacco. Every anomaly with regard to supplies in any part of Australia is immediately investigated, and wherever possible an extra supply has been granted. There is no shortage of tobacco leaf in Australia, but there isa shortage of man-power and woman-power in the industry. If adequate labour were available the supply could be increased immediately by from 8 to 10 per cent.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.What progress has been made regarding the review which the Minister promised last week would be made in connexion with the distribution of tobacco throughout Australia ?
– I think thatI explained to the honorable senator, when he asked his question last week, that the distribution is conducted in each State by a State Distribution Committee. Those conducting the inquiry have been directed to confer immediately with the State committees. A review is to be made, as I promised, of the whole process of distribution, and at an early date I hope to be able to announce the result of the investigation.
– In view of the discontinuance of the passenger shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland, and as the Government will save a substantial sum through not having to pay a subsidy during the discontinuance of the shipping service, will the Minister representing the Prime Minister state whether a subsidy will be granted to the air transport services operating between Tasmania and the mainland, so that they may provide additional transport facilities for the people of Tasmania, equivalent in cost to the sum which the Government will save as a result of not having to pay a shipping subsidy during the temporary withdrawal of shipping?
– The suggestion of the honorable senator will receive the early attention of the Government.
– I have received from Senator Brand an intimation that he de; Ires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The action of the Government in completely and purposefully disregarding the law of the land in relation to preference to returned members of the fighting services”.
.- I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 9 a.m.
– Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I have moved the adjournment of the Senate to draw public attention to the attitude of the Government to preference in employment to discharged members of the fighting services. It is now eleven months since this Parliament agreed to an amendment of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, section 42a of which provides for preference in certain circumstances to members of the fighting services. Legal opinion was sought, to discover under what act such a vital principle could be applied, and the answer was that it could be incorporated in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act since preference in employment was a phase of repatriation. It is true that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in the hope that the amendment might be withdrawn, gave an assurance that the Government would bring down a measure to safeguard the principle of preference, which under section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, relates only to returned soldiers of the 1914-18 war, and applies only to the Public Service. No one doubted the Prime Minister’s honest intention when he gave that assurance, but would the Labour caucus support him? Would outside influence be brought to bear to restrain him in his good intentions? Was preference to unionists to be given priority over preference to returned soldiers? There were definite indications in connexion with government contracts that exservice men would be overlooked. I am not opposed to trade unionism; it is a necessary safeguard. Working men have as much right to organize for their economic security and protection as have their employers to organize through a federation. But when men, through their parliamentary representatives, demand preference in employment over men who risk their lives in Australia’s battles on land, sea, and in the air, I, for one, will resist that demand. It is pure nonsense to compare a war worker on the home front with a serviceman in a battle area. In fighting in a battle area a’ serviceman is fighting to preserve for this country the standard of living and economic security which wise legislation has created. No law is of any consequence should an enemy destroy the safety of the Commonwealth. It is the man who places his body between the people and a ruthless invader who ensures the maintenance of our living standards. Is he not entitled to every consideration that it is possible to give? Opposition senators and their colleagues in the House of Representatives stood firm on this vital question, with the result that in April, 1943, preference to returned servicemen became law. Upon the Curtin Government devolved the responsibility of administering that law by framing the necessary machinery to put it into operation. This shilly-shallying and procrastination which has occurred over a period of eleven months is a distinct slur on the legislative function of the Senate; it is contrary to democratic government to flout the decision of a majority of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser), when speaking on another matter last night, said that we should abide by a majority decision of the Parliament. He should address that remark to his colleagues in the Cabinet. What is behind the Government’s delay in giving effect to section 42a of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act? The same outside influences prompted certain members of the Victorian Parliament to fight, clause by clause, the preference bill introduced in that Parliament on the 23rd November, 1943. They did their utmost to defeat the bill. I have here the act which was assented to a month later. Here also is a similar act which became law in South Australia about the same time. What was the reason for those two States passing legislation to give preference to discharged ex-servicemen? The reason was that those States were of the opinion that after seven months’ delay the Curtin Government had not made any move to give effect to a majority decision of this Parliament. Those two States decided to act on their own account, and to provide for a measure of preference for men now being demobilized, and those who will ‘be demobilized in the future.
The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) said recently that 8,403 demobilized ex-servicemen had been placed in employment, but their jobs are mostly dead-end occupations which will disappear in the post-war period. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has stated that certain Government munitions factories would be turned over to the production of specified peace-time goods. This is not the occasion to discuss the rights and wrongs of such a policy, but I point out that when the large-scale production of munitions is no longer necessary the post-war defence services will need ample supplies of up to date equipment. Selected Government munitions factories, including aircraft factories, will have to maintain something more than a bare nucleus of a staff, but that is not why I refer to the statement of the Minister for Munitions that 60,000 men would be employed permanently. He did not say whether returned soldiers eligible under section 42a of the act mentioned would be given priority in such employment. Thousands of men in the fighting services were either skilled artisans before they enlisted, or have received training as fitters, turners and mechanics in the mobile workshops which in this war are well in the battle zone. This personnel comes within the scope of the above-mentioned provision. It is time that the Government came out into the open and definitely declared itself on this question of preference. The men in the fighting services, and those now demobilized are becoming suspicious. Last week when I pressed for something definite as to the Government’s intentions, some honorable senators opposite interjected that the section in question was of no value. My reply is that the section, as it stands, is a tentative provision giving some protection to ex-servicemen, and that, above all, it is a law passed by this Parliament which has been deliberately and positively ignored by the Curtin Government. Preference to returned servicemen has undoubtedly been established as the wish of this Parliament. It is the duty of the Government to make it operative by taking the necessary steps, without any further delay, to administer the principle.
– I support the motion. When the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act was amended by this Parliament to give preference to> returned servicemen of the last war and also of the present war, something of real value was given to returned servicemen, because it entitled them to press their claim for preference not only in governmental undertakings but also in private employment. Under the law as it now stands a serviceman has the right of appeal to the highest court in this land for preference to be given to him. by both public and private employers. The charge has often been levelled by honorable senators supporting the Government ‘that after the last war preference to returned soldiers was given effect only in respect of pick-and-shovel work. That is not so, as I can testify from my experience. In 1922 I was the representative of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia on the Preference Board which was appointed by the Mitchell Government of Western Australia to review all cases of preference to returned servicemen in appointments to, and promotions within, the Public Service of that State. I assure the Senate that during the period I was a member of that board, not one application in respect of pickandshovel work was dealt with. All the cases that came before us related to work in higher categories, and, so far as was possible, the principle of preference to returned servicemen was rigidly maintained. That board consisted of at least four representatives, three of whom were government representatives and one a representative of the league. Each of its members was a returned soldier. That fact indicated that in 1922 the Mitchell
Government was resolved to give preference to soldiers throughout the trades and professions, and not merely in respect of pick-and-shovel work. As a matter of fact most of the returned soldiers who were given jobs on so-called pickandshovel work were placed in such employment directly through the league. Soon after the last war the league established an employment branch in Perth, and that branch obtained hundreds of 1 positions every week for returned men. It also fought strenuously at every opportunity for the principle of preference to returned, soldiers. Similar organizations are now being set up in order to look after the interests of men who- serve in this war. Already these organizations are in operation in some States. I advise them to insist at all times that the law of the country on this matter be observed, whether the job for which a man is sought is a so-called pick-and-shovel job or the highest position in the land. Preference to returned soldiers is now the law of this land, and that law must be enforced not only in respect of governmental positions, but also positions offering in industry generally. I congratulate Senator Brand on the case he has presented on behalf of the returned men not only of this war hut also of the last war, and I commend the motion to the Senate.
– I support the motion. I have very great respect for Senator Brand’s motives in taking this action. I realize that any one who, like the honorable senator, has commanded Australian troops in the field cannot be unconscious of the loyalty which he owes to them. Those men have placed in their debt for the remainder of their lives those who have had the honour to command them in the field. I do not propose to speak at great length on this occasion because I dealt with the more important phases of the subject when I spoke in this chamber last March on the bill to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Nor is there any need to express the generosity of this nation in the measures it has taken for the care of ex-soldiers of the last war and their dependants. Whilst some of the efforts made in this sphere may have miscarried or proved to be faulty, the fact remains that a gross expenditure of over £300,000,000 upon the repatriation of soldiers who served in the last war is some indication of what has been attempted by the liberal governments of this country. To-day we seek to profit from errors made in the past, and we seel? a better repatriation measure for those who serve in this war. The speedy and effective absorption in civilian life of soldiers from this war must be a vital feature of such legislation. When speaking in this chamber a few days ago, Senator Clothier said that in Western Australia the general rule was for men from the ranks to be given preference foi- pick-and-shovel jobs whilst preferonce for the better classes of job3 was restricted to “ those in high office”. That is not true. The principle of preference to returned soldiers was applied with very favorable results in filling vacancies in the professions, trades and industry generally. The people of Western Australia were grateful to those who had fought on their behalf, and legislative action was not essential in order to compel such recognition of the service rendered by these men. That practice was instituted in the State Public Service by the Premier of the day, and it has been continued ever since by all governments, including Labour governments. I discussed this subject with a former Labour Premier, who told me that he recognized the merits of the claim for preference to returned soldiers. I say. to his credit, that while he was in office his government recognized that principle so far as it possibly could, having regard to the peculiar political situation in which it found itself. The only serious opposition to the application of this principle emanated from the Trades Hall, and that opposition was based solely on the fear that such a principle would endanger the policy of preference to unionists. One can quite understand that outlook on the part of the Trades Hall. However, no ill feeling arose over that position. The Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) alleged that when honorable senators on this side were in office we did not attempt to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. I know something of what was in the minds of my colleagues when, they held Cabinet rank. I refer, first, to the late Brigadier Street, and, secondly, to my present leader, Senator McLeay. Both of those gentlemen were fully seised of the importance of guaranteeing the principle of preference to returned men in statutory form. I also know my own feelings on this subject when I had the honour to be the Minister for Repatriation. The governments which we supported went farther in this matter than merely expressing intentions. I have here a table of Australian legislation affecting returned soldiers, sailors and airmen. It makes interesting reading. It reveals that a non-Labour government initiated the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, the War ‘Service Homes Act, and the War Gratuities Act, and also arranged for the inclusion in the Commonwealth Public Service Act of the provision giving preference to returned soldiers. The table also reveals that in 1931 the Scullin Government enacted legislation the effect of which was to reduce expenditure on pensions by over £1,000,000 annually, and also the degree of eligibility or entitlement to pensions. The table also reveals that the Lyons Government restored those reductions. Let us examine the application of this principle of preference to returned soldiers insofar as the Commonwealth Public Service is concerned. For over two years this Government has had in its possession recommendations to bring the Commonwealth Public Service Act up to date by providing that men who serve in this war be eligible for the benefits which that act now confers on ex-soldiers of the last war. However, this Government has not taken action in that matter. On previous occasions I have accused honorable senators opposite, perhaps somewhat mildly, of burking this issue. No Government should hesitate to fulfil a promise, particularly a promise of this kind, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said involves the honour of this nation. It is because something ought to be done that I applaud Senator Brand for bringing this subject before the Senate to-day. I hope that the Government will understand the importance which we attach to it, and the credit which will accrue to the Government if it takes the action which is called for.
, - It appears to me that the serial of a campaign to grant preference to returned soldiers is now being continued. One would imagine that those belonging to a certain section are the only custodians of the soldiers’ rights. It has suddenly struck .them that they may be able to make political capital out of a mistake which they themselves made, although they were told at the time in no uncertain manner that the mistak would react upon the soldiers. That was when by the weight of numbers they determined, in order to embarrass the Curtin Government, to insert in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill, a clause to give preference to returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service, other government undertakings, and government contracts.
– Did that embarrass the Curtin Government?
– It was intended to do so, and as the result the people of South Australia subsequently caused the honorable senator a great deal of embarrassment. The party opposite inserted a clause in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, although they knew that the Repatriation Commission could not control the extension of the principle of preference to the soldiers whom they pretended to protect. I challenge honorable senators opposite to show that the commission can administer the preference to soldiers section without a very large expansion of its staff. When the Curtin Government in the same session introduced in this chamber a bill to give real preference to all returned men, including those at Darwin and Broome, the members of the mercantile marine and of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Opposition definitely excluded those people, who consequently do not come (within the scope of the measly and meaningless piece of legislation which, as a result of a sham-fight and camouflage, was inserted in the act mentioned. Honorable senators know also that the only piece of Commonwealth legislation affecting returned soldiers passed by this
Parliament between 1916 and 1942 was that which provided that they should be given preference, “ all things being equal “. The result was that a number of men obtained positions in certain government undertakings.
– That is not the law now.
– It has since been amended by stipulating that returned soldiers shall get preference if “ competent to do the work “. The decision as to competence is left to the same people who decree whether all things are equal.
It is now well known that the Government contemplates introducing a bill to give preference to all those who have served and made sacrifices in the interests of the nation.
– The Government is taking a long time to make up its mind.
– The honorable senator has not done anything to help the Government to introduce the bill. He has used every ounce of his energy to prevent its introduction. In the circumstances it is humbug for honorable senators opposite to say that the Government is not doing anything. If the Opposition delay and reject legislation what hope has the Government of implementing its programme? The legislation to give effect to preference to soldiers is not very urgent at the present time, because all the soldiers who have been discharged from the forces during this war have obtained positions. Still, I am particularly concerned about ensuring that a proper measure is placed on the statutebook. I wish protection to be given to every soldier who left these shores and went overseas, offering his life in the cause of his country. When he returns I wish to see him given a suitable position, with such amenities that he will be able to live and maintain his wife and family in comfort. The pretence put up by the Opposition will not give the returned men anything substantial. ‘If honorable senators opposite are sincere in their desire to do something for them, they should see that such facilities are provided as will ensure work and a decent standard of living not only to those who went overseas but also to all those in
Australia who were under the control of the Army authorities and could have been sent overseas, at any rate to New Guinea. Provision should be made for all who could have been in the danger zone, all those in the ground staff of the Air Force who could have been sent overseas to any part of the world and subjected to bombing day and night, all the men and women who worked in the aeroplane factories, those who have made aeroplane parts, the men who manned the guns, and those who made them. Who could man a gun if there were no one to build it? Something mUSt be done for all these people. Does the Opposition propose to create in this fair land a state of affairs that will range the men who manned the guns against those who made them? Does the Opposition claim that one section is better than the other? Will it divide the nation by saying to the men who manned the guns, “ You must have a job, but those who made them must not”? Is that attitude symbolic of the destiny that is being worked out for the Australian people? Is this part of the new order? I hope to God that it is not, and that Australia in the post-war years will be a generous land which will provide an adequate standard of living for all sections of the -people. Did honorable senators opposite voice any protest when the parties which they represent had a majority in this chamber of 29 to 8, and soldiers’ pensions were reduced upon the advice of Jewish financial advisers who came to this country and told the Australian people, including, of course, the returned soldiers of the last war, that they would have, to tighten their belts? Was an adjournment motion moved at that time in this chamber to prevent those pensions being reduced?? No. Honorable senators opposite realize that what this Government intends to do will be done. Therefore, the action which they are taking to-day is nothing more than camouflage and political showmanship aimed at preventing the introduction into this Parliament of certain legislation. I can assure them that that legislation will “be introduced. But let honorable senators opposite have their say; let the debate continue, but for God’s sake let there be some sincerity in it; let it be something real. It is useless to criticize the Government because it has not given effect to a meaningless and untimely provision, the administration of which is not in the hands of the Government, but. of the Repatriation Commission. I hope that when the Government does introduce legislation providing for preference to soldiers in employment it will consider the rights of all sections of the community, and will take steps to ensure that the necessaries of life are within the reach of every one. I hope that there will be no competition for employment between fathers and sons. I should not like to see after this war, a repetition of what occurred after the last war, when the sons of men who fought and died fo.r their country were denied employment because they were not returned soldiers. I am sure that my views on that matter are shared by all honorable senators. I do not wish to see men with family responsibilities, who were too young to go to the war, unable to obtain employment because preference is given to returned soldiers, irrespective of their family responsibilities. Let us have something on an Australia-wide basis, and let us bear in mind the fact that not one soldier, sailor or airman could fight on. our battle fronts unless the workers in industry provided the wherewithal for them to carry on the fight. An army marches on its stomach, and a great army of workers is required to provide foodstuffs for the fighting services*
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- Senator Amour seemed to be developing a very strong argument against the granting of preference in employment to returned soldiers.
– I am pleased that the honorable gentleman understood me.
– Am I right in assuming, then, that the honorable senator is opposed to preference’ to returned soldiers ?
– I spent several minutes endeavouring to explain my attitude on that question, and I am glad that the honorable senator has understood me.
– I can assume, then, that Senator Amour is not in accord with the opinion of the Government which he supports. The Government has promised to introduce a measure providing for preference to returned soldiers, and if Senator Amour is to be consistent in his opposition to the policy of preference to returned soldiers, no doubt we shall find him lined up against Government members when that measure is before this chamber.
– The whips will crack then!’
– Yes, and irrespective of what Senator Amour’s personal views may be, I am sure that he will fall into line with his party. In his opening remarks, the honorable senator referred to the motion which had been moved by my colleague Senator Brand, and upon which I congratulate him for his contribution to what Senator Amour referred to as a serial. I agree with that contention; this is a serial that has been continued since men first began to return from the 1914-18 war and one which, unfortunately, will continue so long as there are returned soldiers to .fight for the principle of preference. The present Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia had its origin in Queensland, where it was known first as the Returned Soldiers League. It came into being when wounded and sick soldiers came back from, the Gallipoli campaign. At that time a prominent Labour member of this Parliament referred to the men who were coming back from the war as “scabs and blacklegs “. Such indignation was caused by that remark, that the Returned Soldiers League was formed to safeguard the rights of returned men. That organization soon spread from Queensland to the other States, and since then it has crown to large proportions throughout Australia. I am sure that the serial to which Senator. Amour referred will continue for a long time in order to ensure preference in employment to those men who have offered their lives in the service of their country. But the matter goes much deeper than one individual scrapping with another over a job. I am sure that every honorable senator would like to see employment available for every man and woman in this country who is able and willing to work. Nothing is sadder or more detrimental to the welfare of an individual and a nation than the denial of opportunities for employment to men and women who are willing and able to work. We have no differences of opinion in that regard, but the principle of preference in employment to returned members of the fighting services involves more than the result of two men applying for the same job, one being a soldier and the other a non-soldier. There is also the matter of promotions. In the Commonwealth Public Service, a large number of male and female employees have donned service uniforms. On account of the rapid expansion of the various public services many men have received promotion at an unusually rapid rate. Many who have stayed at home have had quick advancement, which has definitely been denied to those who have been serving for three or four years with the fighting services.
– In the Postal Department, when a position becomes vacant, appeal is automatically made on behalf of the officer who is absent on account of service overseas.
– 1 am glad to be reminded of that ; but, in the Department of Trade and Customs, for example, vast sub-departments have been created owing to war conditions, and men employed in those branches have received quick advancement. As vacancies occur from time to time, men serving with the fighting forces will have lost many opportunities of advancement. Senator Aylett remarked that when section 42a was inserted in the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act, the Opposition in this chamber attempted to exclude certain classes of persons from preference. The section does not exclude any person engaged in the fighting services, but it definitely excludes classes of employees which the Government wished to include in the preference provision. We all have great respect for the men employed in the mercantile marine, and in the manufacture of munitions, but those men liii ve not been taken away from their ordinary avocations in the same way as have the members of the fighting ser vices. Many men who were previously engineers, for instance, have -.Merely’ been transferred from a peace-‘. :c activity to a war-time job, and thi-, nave been a’ble to retain their skill ; bu; members of the fighting services necessarily lose their skill as artisans or engineers, except for practice in such callings as they may be required to follow while in the fighting services. Some members of the forces have not done anything but soldiering for three or four years, and when they return to civil life they may have had as much as six years’ soldiering. The system of preference in employment for which the Opposition asks is in the nature of a reward, so that returned soldiers may be able to compete with their fellow men on equal terms. Many of those engaged in the manufacture of munitions have been following more or less their ordinary avocations, and have been receiving considerably higher wages than the men serving at the front.
I draw attention to the attitude of the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) to the new section inserted in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act with regard to preference in employment to members of the fighting services. When he was asked by Senator Brand whether the Government proposed to implement that section which was agreed to by a majority in the Senate and was accepted in the House of Representatives, the Minister said that this amendment had been forced on the Ministry, and he virtually declared that the Government, intended to defy the Parliament regarding it. Surely, we have not reached a stage when this Parliament is no longer supreme? I thought that under the democratic form of government the Ministry must bow to the will of Parliament. How can the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) expect the people to obey the law of the land when the Minister for Aircraft Production declares that, although an amendment of an act had ‘been agreed to by Parliament, the Government does not intend to put it into operation?
– Because it is useless.
– I regard it as a valuable contribution to the cause of preference to returned soldiers. I am greatly concerned about the large number of men who are receiving remunerative govern ment appointments, but have not seen active service. Some of the best of our senior public servants - I refer to men like Mr. McVey, the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, but now in charge of Aircraft Production, Mr. Mighell, who was formerly in charge of repatriation matters, and Mr. Carrodus, Secretary of the Department of the Interior - are all capable returned soldiers. They were appointed by previous governments to positions of great responsibility and they have proved themselves to be among the most capable public officers in the Commonwealth. A large number of young men - so-called economists and professors - who have recently been appointed to take control of important matters might well have been in uniform. I need not mention their names, but honorable senators opposite are aware that men, almost straight from the universities, have been put into high positions in the Departments of War Organization of Industry and PostWar Reconstruction. I remind honorable senators that the bulk of employment in this country, whether of returned soldiers or of others, is under the control of private enterprise. Many of the men who are now serving overseas have jobs outside government control to which they will return.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Stated in broad general terms, the motion submitted by Senator Brand charges the Government with not carrying out a law passed by this Parliament, namely a certain provision of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act relating .to preference to returned servicemen. We on this side claim that effect could not be given to that provision. It is significant that, of the four Opposition senators who have spoken, not one has laid a specific charge to show where the Government has failed to give effect to this policy. Not one instance of a civilian having been appointed to a position in preference to a returned serviceman has been cited. One incorrect statement advanced in support of the motion was that public servants serving with the fighting forces have been neglected when appointments and promotions have been made. Many of them continue to receive advancement in the same way as if they were still working in government departments.
– Does that apply to all government departments?
– I do not know to what degree it applies, but honorable senators opposite spoke in general terms and said that public servants serving with the forces had been overlooked when promotions were being made.
– I cited specific cases.
– I repeat that many of the men now serving with the armed forces have been advanced in their departments from time to time, and are now classified in positions above those which they occupied when they enlisted.
Instead of discussing the granting of preference to servicemen we should concern ourselves with providing work for all. I remind the Senate of what took place in this chamber only a few days ago. A bill to provide sickness and unemployment benefits to unemployed servicemen was strenuously opposed by honorable senators opposite. They were not prepared to assist in passing legislation to benefit returned fighting men who had the misfortune to be out of work for a fortnight. Many of the men now serving abroad will return to Australia with badly shaken nerves, or physically not so fit as when they went away, yet they will be capable of performing certain classes of work. I consider that they should be given preference over men who are physically fit when such positions are being filled. I take it that that is what Senator Brand has in mind, and I remind the honorable senator that that is also the policy of the Government. On that point there is no difference of opinion in this chamber. Before submitting such a motion as is now under consideration Senator Brand and his colleagues would have done well to reflect on past happenings and the record of the present Opposition, because its doorstep is not so clean as they would have us believe. For their information I recall what took place during the regime of the Scullin Government. It will be remembered that many thousands of returned servicemen were then hungry and out of work. The Treasurer of the day sought authority for an issue of credit of £18,000,000 in order to provide jobs for those men, but the 29 non-Labour members then in the Senate opposed the proposal. Senator Brand said that he did not believe in extending preference to men who had not taken part in actual warfare. I remind him of the work of the men of the Mercantile Marine who took much needed supplies to various fighting bases. I remind him also of those civil air pilots of commercial aeroplanes who carried men, guns, and munitions to the fighting lines. Yet the honorable senators opposite would deny to them rights which they would give to men in uniform who never left Australia to fight. A man who remains in Australia and does not engage in any fighting is not entitled to preference over members of the Mercantile Marine and certain civil air pilots.
We must look further ahead than merely the granting of preference to certain categories of men when a few jobs are available: we must plan to provide work for all, including soldiers, men of the navy and of the air force, as well is those now working in munitions f factories. If work be provided for all, there can be no great squabble about preference. Indeed, there would be no need for legislation granting preference except to those cases which I have mentioned, namely, men suffering from some war disability who. can undertake only certain classes of work. Bather than remain idle as pensioners, they should be allowed to do suitable work. If we are to act fairly by the men of the fighting services, we must provide not only for those who will return but also for children of servicemen and the workers in munitions factories. If Opposition senators were to co-operate with the Government in providing for them, they would render greater assistance to servicemen than by adopting tactics designed to harass the Government, and holding up the business of this Parliament with motions such as that now before us. when important legislation dealing with servicemen and others is awaiting attention.
– This subject has been in the forefront of discussion in the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia ever since the last European war. It is a subject on which we should not display heat. The reason why the league has so strongly advocated the principle of preference to men who served in the war of 1914-18 is that so very many young men - youngsters from nineteen to twenty years of age - who flocked into camp during those memorable years gave all they had in the service of their country, and suffered such great hardship and strain that, when they returned to Australia, although, possibly, they had not been wounded physically, they were certainly dreadfully wounded in mind and heart. They lost a great deal. They lost so much that it is nut humanly possible to make full amends to them. We shall be faced with the same problem upon the cessation of the present hostilities. Our ex-soldiers will require all the sympathy, understanding and help that we can give to them. They will be like the war pensioner who is given a pension to compensate him for damage he has sustained in the defence of his country.
The opinion is very often expressed that the ex-soldier of the last war was painfully neglected and was given a raw deal so far as employment was concerned. I do not deny that in some instances that was the case. However, in the main, all governments in Australia, and particularly the Government of Tasmania, made sincere attempts to implement the principle of preference to returned soldiers. Some people say, “ Yes, preference was carried out, but only with respect to senior officers - the brass hats “. That was not the case in Tasmania. The fact is that many important, positions were filled by returned soldiers. The service rendered by ex-soldiers was recognized in Tasmania in many ways. For instance,, every ex-soldier, regardless of property qualifications, was placed on the Legislative Council roll, and every returned soldier was entitled to 10 per cent, rebate of income tax. All governments in the Commonwealth attempted to make up to these men something of what they had undergone and the sacrifices they’ had made. To-day, however, it seems to be the practice to discuss this subject on the assumption that advocates of the principle of preference to returned soldiers contend that a returned soldier must have a job while men -who are not returned soldiers must be allowed to remain unemployed. That contention is utter nonsense. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has never argued along those lines. This is not a question of the soldier, sailor or airman versus the civilian. Such a division should not arise.* Advocates of the principle of preference to returned men simply submit that the nation should be prepared to recognise the sacrifices made by our soldiers. So great is the strain which young airmen, for instance, undergo that many are quite old at 22 or 23 years of age. “We strongly contend that preference of employment should be given to such men on their return to this country. I shall maintain that contention against till comers at all times. Every endeavour was made by the Postal Department to place in employment as many ex-soldiers from the last war as possible, without prejudicing the rights of young apprentices and cadets, who must be trained to take their place in industry. I suggest that the training of our ex-soldiers will be a vital element in their rehabilitation. We must always remember that many of the young men now in our services were only starting out to face life when they enlisted. They must be our first care. We must enable them to fill a useful niche in our national life. One honorable senator asked, “ Where would the soldier be but for the worker in the munitions factories?” My rejoinder to that is, “Where would the worker be without the soldier, sailor and airman to defend this country?” But do not let us allow divisions of this kind to arise in this matter. Surely in a country like Australia, with its comparatively small population, there can be no room for recrimination and acrimony between sections of the community. It was also said that this motion, was moved merely to hamper the business of the Senate. That imputation is unworthy of those who make it. Senator Brand moved this motion, and we support it, simply in order to bring to the notice of the people a vital problem which might very easily 1m overlooked. I repeat that hundreds of thousands of our young men who return from the present conflict, although not physically wounded, will be wounded in mind and heart as the result of the strain they have undergone. We must give to them all the sympathy, understanding and wisdom in our power in order to make up to them a small measure of what they have lost while they have been away defending us. We must, one and all, see to it that we do not fail them.
– An idea which seems to prevail among a great number of members of this Parliament, and it amounts almost to an obsession, is that the great problem which will confront the world when the war ends will be to provide, work for everybody. I cannot imagine a greater fallacy. Hardly a word is heard about the leisure to which men are entitled. Among the ancients, the intellectuals of Greece were men of leisure. A man must have some time for leisure; and the technocrats of the world have proved beyond doubt that we can produce all the things we require for human needs in a working day of three or four hours. But all we hear is the cry of “ provide work “. The fact that these ideas are promulgated, although all honorable senators ought to know that after the war there will be work for everybody, is due to people not understanding the economics of the situation, or the finances which should govern this and all other countries. There should be no need to pass bills to provide preference to returned soldiers. Any scheme of postwar reconstruction which leaves out of account the use of the national credit is doomed to failure. We can construct all the public works we need without difficulty. I have particulars of the Queensland irrigation scheme brought forward by the late Dr. Bradfield, which could be carried out by means of the use of national credit. We could provide all the hospitals necessary. The honorable’ member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) stated recently that thousands of hospital beds were wanted, and that people were dying in their homes for lack of hospital .accommodation. All this is because, honorable senators have not grasped the idea that wars are fought not with money but with credit, and that that credit is available to us. The report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems ought to be studied by every one. Every one could be given work. Men could be put on the land to grow wheat or potatoes, but they could not grow the money with which to purchase them. Every man on the land should be producing the necessaries of life, but when they are produced where is the money to buy them? Wheat dropped from 6s. to ls. 6d. a bushel, but when the war broke out the Government fixed the price. Professor Wadham, of the Melbourne University, recently toured Australia to find out the cause of the troubles of the primary producers. At his meeting in Hobart I reminded him that six years ago a commission sat to inquire into wheat-growing. He said that he had the report in his bag, but he did not suppose that anybody had ever read it. [ reminded him that the commission proved that the wheatlands of Australia were then mortgaged to financial institutions to an amount of £161,000,000. I asked him what the price of wheat was at the time and he replied, “ Prom ls. 6d. to 1s. 9d. a bushel”. I asked him how could the farmers pay 6 per cent, overdraft in those circumstances? I then asked him if he were an economist. He said “ No, I am a scientific agriculturist “. I replied, “ It is useless to send you round. You are not the man for the job. This is not a matter of producing. You can tell the farmer how to produce the best wheat, but you will not tell him where the money is to come from to buy it. Had you been an economist you would have known what must be done. What is the use of growing wheat if there is no sale for it?” I told, him, as I tell the Senate now, that the banks hold the right, and have used it every time, to say how much money shall be in circulation. The soldiers will be able to go -to any occupation they like after the war so long as the national credit necessary to carry out necessary works is available. The housing position is bad, and there is a shortage of hospitals, yet the old financial idea still prevails in this chamber that you cannot do anything without money. We are the luckiest people in the world, because we have a Commonwealth Bank to provide us with credit. I have discussedthis matter with members of both Houses, and none of them can say that it cannot be done, but the interests which sent them here and which they serve will not allow them to do what is necessary.
I have a great regard for our friend, Senator Brand, who has done a great deal of work on behalf of the soldiers. No one knows more about them than he does, but he need not worry about work for his friends when they come ha’ck if he will listen to me. The flower of the world’s manhood and womanhood is being blown to pieces in millions. The treasures of the world in art and architecture, gathered together over the centuries, are being reduced to rubble because of the incompetence and corruption which can be found in every parliament in the socalled democracies. When governments really govern there will be some hope for the future. It is futile to talk about introducing a new order so long as there exists a power above governments. One of the leading bankers of .Great Britain said publicly that the banks could sway and make and unmake governments. Honorable senators opposite tell us that the governments of the United States of America and Great Britain are building up a war-time currency. They are doing nothing of the kind. Money provides a means for effective purchase, and without effective purchasing power it does not matter what we produce. Ruskin said that the only way to justify production was consumption. The banks under the present system have the power to say how much money shall be in circulation. Price levels are governed by the amount of money in the hands of the people, which shows what power the banks exercise. Honorable senators opposite cannot, controvert what I say. When I speak, they walk out of the chamber because they are sent here to fight for other interests. Everybody in the chamber seems to think that the panacea for the world’s evils is to provide everybody with work, and from that point of view I should like to see every returned man provided with work; but work is not everything, because there must be time for leisure and culture. The problem is to get down to fundamentals. How can we advocate a new order until we have found out what is wrong with the present one? Tens of thousands of intelligent people are concerned about the new order and post-war reconstruction. The summer school, of the Australian Institute of Political Science held meetings in Canberra recently, but not one of those who took part in the discussions got down to fundamentals in an attempt to ascertain what is wrong with the present order. I quoted last week Mr. Churchill’s statement that he took the advice of the directors of the Bank of England to put Great Britain back on to the gold standard, at a time when the machines in the factories of Birmingham and Manchester were covered with cobwebs. Tens of thousands of people in Great Britain were ruined. Then the gold standard had to be abandoned, and we are still off it, but in accordance with the terms of the Atlantic Charter, we shall return to it when the war is over. That will be the end of all hope of peace or a new order, because the same individuals who were in the saddle when we were driven into this war will still be in the saddle and will drive us into another war. Recently one of the production chiefs in the United ‘States of America said that production of war material would not cease when the war ended because we would have to start to build up for the next war.
– I remind the honorable senator that Australia has subscribed to the Atlantic ‘Charter.
– I know that, and that is what I fear.
– The Government of which the honorable senator is a supporter pledged Australia to the Atlantic Charter.
– I am not making excuses for the Government, and I do not approve of many things that it does.
– Order !
– “With all due respect. Mr. President, I submit that I am in ora e i . I am endeavouring to show how” finance can be provided for post-war schemes, and that surely has a direct relation to the matter now before the Senate.
– I called the honorable senator to order, not because his remarks were irrelevant, but because he was replying to disorderly interjections. The honorable senator’s remarks in regard to finance arc germane to the subject of preference to returned soldiers.
– I take it, then, Mr. President, that you were really calling to order the honorable senators opposite, who were interjecting. I have been in this chamber for six years, and in that time I have not made more than half a dozen interjections. I had hoped that honorable senators opposite would extend to me the same courtesy. It is an insult to me to find that certain honorable senators opposite should deliberately walk out of the chamber every time I speak. Surely, I am entitled to a fair hearing. I did not come here to get a job ; I came here to do a job and I shall continue to do it so long as I am able to raise my voice. I object to being interrupted continually ‘by certain honorable senators opposite who are only half my age and have had only half my experience.
Until governments really govern, it will be impossible to have peace in the world. In 1939, six months before the war broke out, Mr. Montagu Norman, Governor of the Bank of England, loaned £50,000,000 to Germany. Why he did so is explained in the following statement -
In the spring of 1034, a select group ot international financiers gathered around Mr. Montagu Norman, governor of the Bank of England, in the Bank of England, in Threadneedle-street. Among those present were Sir Alan Anderson, partner in Anderson, Green & Company; Lord (then Sir Josiah) Stamp, chairman of the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Lines; Sir Robert Kindersley, a partner in Lazard Bros.; Charles Hambro, partner in Hambro Bros.; and C. Tiarks, head of J. Schroeder & Company (international banking houses) … a new power was established on Europe’s political horizon, namely, Nazi Germany. Hitler had disappointed his critics. His regime was no temporary nightmare, but a system with a good future, and Mr. Norman advised his directors to include Hitler in their plans.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I commend Senator Brand for bringing this matter before the Senate. Having served under that honorable gentleman in the last war, I appreciate his genuine concern for the welfare of returned soldiers both of the last war and of this war, and I am certain that he has not raised this matter to-day without having given it mature consideration. If we look at this problem impartially and without political bias, we must agree that the granting of preference to returned soldiers is not very much to ask. I hope, as do other honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, that when the war is over there will be no need for the application of the principle of preference to returned soldiers, because there will bo employment for everybody who is anxious and willing to work; but that has not happened in the past, and surely it is within the sphere of our activities to endeavour to protect the returned soldier should he find that he is unable to obtain employment unless preference be granted to him. When the war ends, many ex-servicemen will have been out of civilian employment for fi om one to perhaps six or seven years, and these men will have lost touch completely with ordinary civilian industry. In addition, there will be discharged from the forces, many young men who have never had an opportunity to engage in civilian employment because they enlisted, or were called up at the age of eighteen years. Soldiers, sailors and airmen, who enlisted at that age in the early days of the war, will be .perhaps 24 or 25 when hostilities cease, and the problem of fitting them into civilian life will be difficult. Naturally they will not be able to compete in industry with the more fortunate members of the community who have been carrying on in civilian employment throughout the war. There will be many returned soldiers who will resume the jobs which they held before the war, either in government or private undertakings, and there will be no need for the application of the principle of preference to returned soldiers on their behalf, but there will be many others who will not have a job to go to, and in respect of these men the necessity for preference arises. The civilian worker who, throughout the war, has been working in industry, in clerical employment, or in primary production, has had an opportunity to make himself thoroughly efficient and, naturally, a returned soldier who has been in the forces for many years, will not be able to perform the same class of work with equal efficiency. A great majority of the people endorse the principle that those who had been serving with the fighting forces for long periods should have assistance, if they need it, in rehabilitating themselves in civil life. That is all that the Opposition desires. That principle was incorporated in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, so that returned members of the fighting services should have a definite assurance that their interests would be safeguarded and that they would be assisted in regaining employment after the war.
– The Opposition, seems to have made a deliberate attempt to delay the passage of legislation of a social character. I refer particularly to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill set down for consideration this afternoon.
– We have all night to deal with that.
– Tie whole object of this debate, so far as the Opposition is concerned, is to display political showmanship. The Opposition desires to divide the soldiers and the workers. I make that assertion in all sincerity. Whilst I recognize the importance of the subject of preference in employment to returned members of the fighting services, I claim that the policy of the Curtin Government is to give economic security to all, and not to only a section of the people. The Government has already indicated that it intends to bring down legislation to meet the wishes expressed to-day by members of the Opposition, but honorable senators opposite appear to regard the statement made on behalf of the Government as so much eyewash. Before we deal with the matter introduced by Senator Brand we should consider the important proposals on the notice paper.
Senator Allan MacDonald said that in 1922 the Western Australian Branch of what is now the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia met regularly every week, and provided employment for hundreds of returned soldiers, the implication being that- returned soldiers had been granted preference in all avenues of employment, whereas that preference had been obtained only in respect of government employment. Despite all that has been said regarding the Curtin Government’s failure to implement the preference section of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, preference could only be given with regard to employment in governmental or quasi-governmental instrumentalities. What is the value of a limited preference of that kind?
– Honorable senators opposite would not interfere with private enterprise.
– Of course not. They have given no indication that they desire preference to returned soldiers to apply in all employment throughout Australia. They know that such a policy cannot be implemented, yet they imply that they alone wish to do something of a beneficial nature for the returned members of the fighting services. Senator Collett remarked that in 1931 the Scullin Government effected a large reduction of pensions, but I ask him and other honorable senators opposite what they did on that occasion when the reductions were made? Did they do anything at all to prevent the cuts? In 1931 a depression was raging and pensions, wages, and salaries generally were reduced. Honorable senators opposite glibly say that in 1931 the Scullin Government reduced the pensions of returned soldiers, but they make no reference to the fact that, although they had a large majority in the Senate at that time, they did nothing to prevent the reduction.
– We restored pensions when we took over the reins of government.
– I am speaking of the time when the parties now in opposition had the power, although they were not in office at the time.
– The soldiers agreed to the cut.
– That is the position as I see it. The Opposition has laid a charge against the present Labour Government, but it has not nearly so substantial a basis as existed for a charge against the then Opposition when it had a majority in this chamber in 1931. I cannot forget that when the’ Scullin’ Government wanted to do something definite for the i :turned men from the last war, there was no outcry from the then Opposition that nien who bad fought for their country were living in a state of degradation and deserved better treatment. Their sufferings were due to the operation of the financial system which still exercises much power in the world. The present charge against the Government will not stand investigation. If I understand the position correctly, the people returned the Curtin Government at the last elections with an overwhelming majority, not because they wanted preference to returned soldiers, but because they wanted to see in operation a social system under which all the people would be guaranteed economic security. That, after all, is much more important than any sectional interest. If the Opposition could satisfy honorable senators on this side that any legislative enactment by this Parliament would guarantee that every private employer throughout Australia would give preference to returned servicemen, the position would be different, but they know that that cannot be done. One honorable senator opposite glibly stated that certain persons holding important positions in the employ of the Commonwealth Government could be better employed fighting for their country. That may be so, but before those persons are transferred from their present positions it would be wise to make certain that others capable of performing their duties are available. In my opinion, there are many people in certain classes of society in Australia who are not contributing to their country’s war effort and have no intention to do so.
– That is a reflection on the man-power authorities.
– I admit that it is. I say also that there are many persons employed in “ funk-hole “ industries. There are no grounds to substantiate the motion now before the Senate,, because if there has ever been a government in the Commonwealth which has acted in the interests of servicemen it is the Curtin
Labour Government. If honorable senators opposite are honest they will admit that it was the Curtin Government which raised the rates of pay to Navy, Army and Air Force personnel. In the evolution of its policy, the Curtin Government has accomplished much that is definite and practical in the interests of servicemen. The motive which guides the Government in the circumstances now existing will continue to guide it when peace returns. The motion is merely so much political eyewash and bunkum ; it has been introduced with the object of delaying the consideration of important legislation.
.- In his motion, ‘Senator Brand has made a serious allegation against the Government, and it is significant that the defence of the charge has been entrusted to private members of the Labour party. So far, no Minister has deigned to give any information to the Senate.
– “ Dared “ would be a better word.
– No member of the Government has attempted to show that the charge embodied in the motion is unfounded. Senator Brand has charged the Government with having deliberately flouted a law of this country. He has shown that, although a particular piece of’ legislation has been placed on the statute-book, the Government does not intend to give effect to the decision of the Parliament. That is a serious charge to lay against the Government.
– It is entirely unfounded.
– As the attitude of the Government this afternoon gives some indication of its contempt for laws that it does not like, it seems desirable that it should be reminded of the nature of the law which is being flouted. The section with which we are now concerned contains some deliberate language. It reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in any law of the Commonwealth, or of any State or territory of the Commonwealth, or of 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, 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.
It is merely confirmation of my charge that the Government is deliberately flouting that law when Ministers laugh at that section. The Government accepted that amendment rather than face defeat, and, having accepted it, it refuses to enforce it. It laughs at it.
– Did we draft it?
– The Parliament adopted it, and it is the law of the land.
– Can the honorable senator quote a specific instance in which the Government has ignored this law?
– I want to know what the Government has done to enforce it. I want the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) to tell me whether the Government has taken any action whatever to require public authorities of the Commonwealth to carry out this law. I also remind honorable senators that another legislative provision which has been in operation since the 1st April of lastyear lays it down that the same preference shall be given in all contracts that are entered into with the Commonwealth. Will the Minister tell me what the Government has done to direct the attention of eontractors to that provision? Has the Government put on its contract forms a statement directing attention to it? I understand that it is the common practice of the Government to insist that contractors shall give preference to unionists. It is not slow to direct attention to that. I want- to know what action has it taken, first, to ensure that contractors with the Commonwealth are acquainted with the provision of this law, and, secondly, what action has it taken, since the 1st April last year, to see that that part of the law is enforced. Ministers opposite remain silent when these suggestions are made because they have no answer. The Government has just disregarded these provisions. I shall be interested to hear what answer the Minister for Health is able to give. I want to know whether any contractor has been informed by the Government of his obligations under the law in this respect, and whether the Government has taken any action against any contractor for failure to fulfil his obligations. It has been said during this debate that this section in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is ill-placed. Those who make that objection seek to argue that because this provision is in that act its administration rests with the Repatriation Commission. Nothing could be farther from the truth. From the point of view of administration this has nothing to do with the Repatriation Commission. It is a simply expressed law which, like any other law, the Government should administer and enforce.
– I am glad to have the Minister’s admission that it is not the duty of the Government to enforce this law.
– I did not say that. The administration of this section is the responsibility of the Repatriation Commission.
– It is the responsibility of this Government to administer all Commonwealth laws. It is a nice
State of affairs when we find a responsible Minister telling us that the Government has no responsibility in administering the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
– That is a deliberate untruth. The Minister for Health did not say that.
– He said that the responsibility for administering this section was the responsibility of the Repatriation Commission.
– Under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
– If that means anything and is at all relevant to what I have been saying, it means that it is not the responsibility of the Government. I say deliberately that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that all laws are carried out. The Government has only one honest course to pursue in this matter. It can either accept the law and enforce it, or, if it does not like the law, the honest thing for it to do is to ask Parliament to repeal it. The Government, apparently, is not game to do .that. It is not prepared to come before this Parliament, and say that this is a silly law, and that it wants Parliament to repeal it. It wants to hide behind the Repatriation Commission, and suggest .that it is the commission’s responsibility to enforce the law; and if the commission does not see fit to do so, the commission having no particular connexion with this section at all, the Government wants to say that it is none of its business. That is a very unfortunate state of affairs. I have been disturbed by other instances of the same kind. This is not the first time the Government has flouted the law of the land. It is becoming quite a common practice on the part of this Government to flout the law. During the last general election campaign it flouted the law by purporting to reduce sales tax; and it flouted the law when it paid out money to old-age pensioners which it was not entitled by law to pay out.
– Does the honorable senator object to old-age pensions?
– No; but it is a fundamental principle for the proper administration of the law, and for its respect by the individual, that the Government should set an example by showing that it, at least, is prepared to obey the laws of the land. It is because we have a clear demonstration in this instance of a continued flouting of the law on the part of the Government that I support the motion moved by Senator Brand, and assure him that he is well justified in bringing these facts before Parliament.
– I oppose the motion because I believe that it has been moved in order to embarrass the Government in respect of preference to returned soldiers. The Government was returned to office in August last by a record majority because the people of Australia were confident that it would give a fair deal to all and not a preference to any one section. I do not think that any honorable senator is more appreciative than I am of the sacrifices made by our soldiers and the risks they have taken for us. As Senator Wilson said no man could do more than risk his body for his kinsfolk and home. Senator Wilson has seen what has happened when our men have gone into battle without adequate equipment, and how defenceless they have been against the might of a mechanized foe. I ask him, therefore, have not the work and sacrifices of these men in battle been considerably enhanced by thework done by the workers in the factories who have provided our soldiers with the sinews of war ? I know that there are thousands of men in Australian war industries who would have been in the Army had they been released from their avocations. I am at present dealing with several applications from lads who wish to join the AirForce and are prevented from so doing by their apprenticeship obligations. What is true in these cases is true in respect of others. As others have said, it is true of men on the land and others who have not been able to leave their posts to join the Army. That does not detract from the great debt that we owe to the men and women of the fighting forces, but’ they themselves are fighting for a return, not to the old order that this scheme of preference envisages, but to a higher standard of society in which men and women will be able to have a fair share of what is offering, instead of some getting a livelihood and others facing starvation. The preference idea is all right in theory but it has not turned out very well in practice. We saw what happened after the last war, and what has happened following the passing of the section which the last speaker quoted. I shall read it again to emphasize passages which the honorable senator did not emphasize -
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 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 arc competent for the work required.
For many hours yesterday we were regaled by honorable senators opposite with remarks about directors-general and dictators-general. We were asked who was to be the authority to decide the destination of certain benefits. Similarly, under that section, whois to be the authority as to whether returned soldiers are or are not competent for the work which they wish to undertake? Is the employer to decide who is competent for a job? That opens up the argument which honorable senators opposite yesterday raised. The section also restricts the operation of preference to the Commonwealth Public Service and government contracts. Private employment is not mentioned. In the South Australian and Victorian acts the proportion of one to four, or 25 per cent., is regarded as the basis for employment of returned soldiers. Surely the mover of the motion will not be content with a 25 per cent. preference to soldiers, if any preference is to be given. The section uses the words-
Persons who have been members of the forces and have served outside Australia or in any area prescribed as a combat area.
By this afternoon’s post I received a letter from an organization with regard to some civilians who have been interned by the Japanese, or become prisoners of war in their hands, in New Guinea. The letter states -
Owing to circumstances over which they had no control, over 100 male civilians were obliged to remain, and there seems to be no doubt they were all taken prisoner within a few months of the Japanese capture of the town … As the number involved is comparatively email, and as a similar state of affairs did not apply elsewhere in territories controlled by the Commonwealth, it is thought that the Government may be prepared to grant these men privileges and concessions on lines somewhat similar to those granted to members of the Australian Imperial Force. We would submit that not only should these men be paid on some satisfactory basis by way of a detention allowance, but their wives and families should be regarded as being worthy of more liberal treatment . . .
They ask for three things which would be denied to them under the act. They ask, first, for all repatriation rights. Would not honorable senators opposite who are demanding justice allow those civilians the benefits which the act confers? They ask to be entitled to participate in any rehabilitation or land settlement schemes for members of the forces, and also that their dependants at present in Australia be granted the minimum amount applicable to the dependants of the members of the Australian Imperial Force, and that their children be provided with equal opportunities for education in the post-war years. That is one example of what happens when it is sought to give preference to one section of the people. Cases immediately arise of people who are to all intents and purposes on the same level as members of the Australian Imperial Force.
I wish to refer particularly to women members of the forces. I have recently done a great deal of work in various States in connexion with hospitals. I have gone round particularly to bush hospitals and found the nurses doing a wonderful job working practically the whole round of the clock for seven days a week. Many of them would like to join the nursing services in the Army, Navy or Air Force where the conditions are much more attractive, and where they would have the benefit of repatriation rights as well as various other privileges not granted to civilian nurses. But these girls are man-powered on their jobs. They do not do nursing only but cooking and struggle on doing everything that comes in their way. They cannot get out of it because of the shortage of nurses, but are compelled to stay there. What is going to happen in their case? Are they not doing as much of a war job as those nursing at base hospitals in Australia with regular hours and better conditions? The whole business of preference requires to be reviewed in the light of this war, which is different from the last war. It is not a war in which thousands go overseas and the people who stay at home have no contact with the war. This is a war very near to our own soil and every man, woman and child in Australia has felt its impact. Therefore, what was applicable in the last war is not applicable in this conflict. I should be the last to do any injustice to those brave men and women who have volunteered and gone overseas. I do not suggest that the sacrifices made by our industrial workers in Australia are on the same level as theirs. But they are not fighting for a return to the old order which this preference scheme envisages. They want a decent standard of living built up for themselves and their children and society generally. Otherwise all their sacrifice will be in vain. I therefore submit that it is far better to go ahead with the job we are doing in bringing a plan of social security to the community than to try to use a section which is innocuous as it exists, and absolutely impossible in its application.
– Senator Spicer pointed out that an act passed in April, 1943, provided for preference to soldiers.’ It then became the law of the land, but this Government has failed to carry it out. In omitting to carry out that law, the Government is acting illegally. When a government acts illegally, and persists in doing so, the GovernorGeneral, who is the safety valve of the Commonwealth Constitution, has only one duty, and that is to dismiss the Government. This is not the first time in Australia that a government has acted illegally. The Lang Government in New South Wales saw fit to disregard and disobey the law. On that occasion the Governor of the State dismissed the Ministers who were acting illegally. As Senator Spicer pointed out, not only has this Government been acting illegally since April, 1943, but in the course of this debate, not one Minister has seen fit to give any reason or justification for the Government’s failure to carry out the law. We have been given to understand by Government supporters this afternoon that they do not like this law, which has been passed by the Senate, and by the House of Representatives. and therefore, that they will not carry it out. Is the Government of the country to enforce laws that it likes and disregard laws that it does not like? If so, what is the Parliament for? Are we a tyranny, an autocracy, or a democracy? If we are a democratic people, the law must prevail, and when legislation is passed, it is the duty of the Government to implement it. Since April of last year we have waited patiently for the Government to give effect to this law, realizing, of course, that a certain time was necessary to put the administrative machinery into operation, but we find now that the Government apparently does not intend to carry out the law because, we are told, it is not a good law; that preference is not to be given to returned soldiers, but is to be given to others. I claim that this is a good law, and that it is just as equitable that preference should be given to men who have offered their lives for their country. Many of them have spent four years or more away from their homes, risking their lives, and upon the termination of hostilities, they will be faced with the task of securing jobs for themselves, or if they already have jobs to go to, they will have to compete for promotion with others who have never left this country. lt is true that there are many men in our armed forces who have not been allowed to leave Australia, but that does not get away from the fact that a youth of eighteen years who went overseas with the 6th Division early in 1940, and has fought in Libya, Greece, Crete and New Guinea, has been in the services for nearly five years, and upon demobilization will have to compete with other men of his own age who have remained at home, learned a trade, and made valuable contacts. I ask honorable senators what chance has that young soldier in the face of such competition? Obviously, he will not be in the race. He has learned soldiering, and he has been a good soldier, but how can he compete with a man who has remained in civil life, and become a skilled workman?
– These men would not be provided with jobs even if the legislation were implemented.
– All that the law provides is that a returned soldier shall receive some compensation for having given five or more of the best years of his life in’ the service of his country, and all we ask is that when jobs are available, preference shall be given to the men who have spent four or five of the best years of their lives in the fighting forces.
There has been much confusion over what is meant by the word “ preference “. I am sure that every honorable senator agrees with the desirability of providing full employment for all our citizens after the war.
– Then why does the honorable senator want preference to returned soldiers?
– We want preference to returned soldiers because even assuming that there will be jobs for all when the war is over, when it comes to the question of promoting a man to a higher position and a higher salary, is not the returned soldier who served for four years in the fighting forces entitled to special consideration provided that he can do the job? For that reason, even in a condition of full employment, preference to returned soldiers is fair and essential.
I come now to the condition which was presupposed by a measure which was passed by the Senate yesterday - the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill. Obviously, that measure presupposed that there will be unemployment, and in that event, if a job is offering, and two men want it, we contend that if one of them has been serving in the fighting forces for four or five years, he is entitled to special consideration. The suggestion of the Government ‘that this is a bad law is unfair and unjust to the men who have done so much for this country. For the past four years, most members of our fighting forces have been receiving lower pay than that which has been ruling in civil industries in this country ; they have had no training other than their training to fight ; they have been unable to make contacts which are so valuable in securing employment; they have been separated from their homes, and from those who are dear to them, and the least that their country can do for them is to ensure that they are given jobs when they return, and that they are given preference in advancement to higher positions, provided that they are capable of performing the higher duties.
– That is the whole point. What if they are incapable of performing the higher duties?
– I am not bo foolish as to suggest that a man who is not capable of doing a job should be given that job. Such a practice would be totally unsound, and I am sure that even the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) would not make such a stupid proposition. We have been told as an excuse for the failure of the Government to implement the measure to which I have referred, that the Government proposes to ensure economic security for all. I am sure that every honorable senator is in favour of economic security for all, but if economic security for the man who has boon away from bis home and employment for four or five years, means a dole of 25=. a week such as that provided for in the measure which was passed through this chamber yesterday, it is not the kind of economic security that our soldiers, sailors and airmen are fighting for to-day.
There is one other aspect of the matter which I would like to bring to the attention of the Government. Our lads who have been away fighting have done a grand job for Australia, but their nerves, morale and fighting strength are influenced to a great degree by the attitude of this Parliament, by the treatment that they are receiving from the Australian people, and particularly by the treatment that they believe they will receive when the war is over. Last year this Parliament passed a bill providing preference in employment for them, and for twelve months they have waited patiently for something to be done. Nothing has been done, and they are losing faith in the Government. They are beginning to realize that its promise to treat returned men fairly is apparently so much political window dressing. If the Government is sincere, why does it not carry out the law of the land, which provides for preference in employment to returned soldiers? If the Government achieves its avowed purpose and provides work for all, preference to returned men will mean preference only in advancement. If, on the other hand, the Government fails in its objective of work for all, surely the returned soldier is entitled to a job. Therefore I urge the Government to implement the law immediately. If it insists on acting illegally, I trust that the GovernorGeneral will exercise his power to dismiss Ministers who disregard the law.
– One of the principles of British justice is that a person shall not be found guilty until he has had a trial, but two legal luminaries in this chamber have set .themselves the task this afternoon of not only condemning the Government before it has been heard, but also asking that the Governor-General dismiss it. Senators
Brand and Collett are men to whom the returned soldiers look to do something for them. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provides that preference in employment shall be granted to returned members of the fighting services, but no evidence has been advanced to show that the Government has not carried out the law in that regard. Can honorable senators opposite indicate one instance in which the Government has refused to give effect to the principle of preference to returned soldiers? In the printed contract form used by the Department of the Interior in calling for tenders the following special condition of contract appears : -
In the engagement of workmen, the contractor shall give preference to returned soldiers and sailors who are capable of effectively performing the duties required as against any other applicant for employment.
There is a good deal of political humbug in the remarks of honorable senators opposite. The Commonwealth Public Service Act does not contain the preference to returned soldiers section now embodied in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. For 25 years those who support the policy of the Opposition held the reins of government in this country, yet no effort was made by it to provide increased preference in employment to returned soldiers. War pensions were payable to Australian soldiers under the War Pensions Act. General repatriation benefits, such as employment, vocational training, medical treatment and assistance to purchase businesses, were provided in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Both of those acts were repealed in 1920. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act of 1920 brought pensions from the control of the Treasury to the control of the Repatriation Commission, but not a word was heard about preference to returned soldiers in employment on Commonwealth Government contracts. The only reference to preference in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act was that where the qualifications of applicants were equal, the commission must give preference to persons who have been Australian soldiers within the meaning of the act. Amending legislation, some of it of a machinery nature, did not improve the benefits from 1920 to 3 943. In 1929, entitlement’ and assessment tribunals were appointed, but noattempt was made to increase the preference to returned soldiers beyond preference in employment in the Public Service.
In 1931, the Financial Emergency Act reduced pension rates, which were restored under financial relief legislation some time afterwards. Owing to extraordinary financial difficulties, a Labour government agreed to the Premiers plan, which left to the governments of the States the responsibility of enacting legislation that would reduce the State budgets. I personally voted against the adoption of the Premiers plan; but in Western Australia, when Sir James Mitchell was Premier of that State, the returned soldiers suffered a reduction of their income by 22^ per cent., as well as a reduction of their war pensions. Senator Collett was a member of the party with which Sir James Mitchell was associated, and must know what that Premier did. It is futile to speak of what the Scullin Government did, in view of the heavy reduction inflicted . on returned soldiers by Sir James Mitchell. Many year.3 elapsed before the lost income was restored. In 1943, the present Government introduced a most important bill, increasing the war pension rates by approximately 20 per cent, all round. I cast no reflection on Senator Collett, although for a time he was Minister for Repatriation in a previous government, but I have yet to know that Senator Brand has raised his voice in an attempt to increase the pension rates of soldiers.
– That was done before the Minister entered the Senate.
– There was plenty of time later for the honorable senator to act. The maximum normal pension rate is now £2 10s. a week instead of £2 2s. as previously; the special .rate is £4 16s. instead of £4 a week. Similarly, the rate payable to a wife has been raised from 18s. to 22s. a week, and in addition considerable increases have been granted to children.
– What has all this to do with preference?
– The honorable senator does- not like it. I am showing that although previous governments did not do anything to improve the conditions of returned servicemen, the present Opposition sought to embarrass the present Government by amending the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, hoping .that the Government would refuse to accept the amendment. The purpose of the amendment was to give preference in the Commonwealth Public Service and nothing more.
– It went much further.
– When the proposals of the present Government have been given legislative effect, servicemen will have no cause for complaint. The action of the Opposition to-day is merely so much political humbug. Had the Opposition been sincere in its desire to ensure preference to returned men in connexion with government contracts, action to that effect would have been taken years ago. It must not be thought that only during recent years have governments entered into contracts. Previous governments did not want any legislative obstacle to prevent them from giving first consideration to the class which they rep-resented, but now that a Labour Government is in office, Opposition senators are doing their best to embarrass it.
– Provision for preference to returned men has always been a condition of government contracts.
– That is not so. I draw attention to sections 83 and 84 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which provide -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, a returned soldier whose name is enrolled in the prescribed register for temporary employment shall, if competent for the work required, be considered for temporary employment in priority to any person who is not a returned soldier.
In the making of appointments to the Commonwealth service from among persons who have successfully passed the prescribed examination, the Board shall give preference to returned soldiers.
There is nothing about contracts there.
– During the time that I was Minister for the Interior every government contract contained a clause providing for preference to returned soldiers.
– Has the Minister always been opposed to preference to returned soldiers?
– I am not opposed to preference to returned soldiers. There are certain qualifications with which I shall deal later. Senator Collett knows the stand that I have taken in other places on this subject, because it was the policy of the Labour party, and I was determined that that policy should be enforced.
– I want to know the Minister’s policy now.
– The amendment introduced into this Parliament by Senator Brand did not go so fa,r as the Parliament of South Australia went, because in that State provision was made to cover members of the mercantile marine, who as has already been pointed out by Senator Aylett) go right to the firing line.
– They are not in the fighting services.
– No, but the Parliament of South Australia realized that they were performing duties which entitled them, to special recognition.
– There is a nonLabour Government in South Australia.
– I am not reflecting on the Government of that State; I merely say that the legislation passed in South Australia went further than the amendment moved in this Parliament. 1. repeat that the Government will not overlook its obligations to the servicemen who have done so much for this country, lt has already demonstrated ils interest in them. Not until the present Government came into office were the rates of pay of servicemen sufficient for their needs. During the first two years of war, when previous governments were in power, the only increase granted to servicemen was one of 6d. a day. Yet Opposition senators charge the present Government with failure to carry out the law of the land.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) has made a characteristic speech, in that what is lacking in reason is compensated for in heat. Senator
Brand was right in his references to the administration of repatriation legislation and in expressing doubt whether the Government would bring in a comprehensive bill dealing with the repatriation of soldiers and their comrades. Almost every speaker on the Government side who has spoken has increased the doubt that previously existed regarding the Government’s intention, because in every instance, either by expressed words or by implication, it has been made clear that honorable senators opposite are against the policy of preference to returned soldiers.
– I rise to order. The statement of Senator Leckie that members of the Government are opposed to preference to returned soldiers is entirely incorrect.
– That is not a point of order.
– The honorable senator’s statement is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I understand that a statement to which objection is taken must have personal reference to the honorable senator who objects to it. I made no reference to the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley).
– The Minister says that the expression is offensive to him as a member of the Government anr) asks that it. be withdrawn.
– If any remarks of mine can be construed to refer to the Postmaster-General I withdraw them.
– As points of order are taken so frequently by honorable senators on the ground that remarks made by another honorable senator are personally offensive I ask you, Mr. President, in order to clarify this matter, under what standing order do you give your ruling in this matter ? It is obvious that this practice can be reduced to absurdity.
– Senator Foll has been a member of this chamber for a quarter of a century, and he knows that it is not right for an honorable senator to impute motives to or to use words that are offensive to another honorable senator. As I read the Standing Orders, if an honorable senator asks that certain remarks be withdrawn, and the honorable senator making such remarks refuses to do so, the President decides whether the matter should be carried further. An honorable senator may use certain words which, apparently, are offensive to another honorable senator, but the President may not regard them as being offensive. I take it that in such a case the President’s decision is final. However, I draw attention to Standing Order No. 418 which reads -
No senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
– I realize that the Government is so lacking in armour, or sense of justice, that even the slightest criticism of it will inevitably be regarded as offensive by the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley). I was not referring to him in particular. I was only referring to the fact that although the Government has declared that it intends to bring in a bill to implement the principle of preference to returned soldiers it has failed to do so.
– Have a little patience.
– Men have been returning from the present war for the last two years. The Government should give us action, and not words. Any returned soldier after listening to the speeches of honorable senators opposite would be led to doubt whether the bill promised by the Government will be brought in at all. Every honorable senator opposite who has spoken has condemned the principle of preference to returned soldiers.
– That is not correct.
– They have certainly qualified their objection to that principle. They say that there will be no need to provide for preference to returned soldiers because the Government intends to provide work for every one. That is an ideal which all of us admire. However, the Government itself doubts its ability to achieve that ideal because only yesterday we dealt with a measure to provide unemployment benefits. I admire the Government’s ideal in this matter, but its performances belie that ideal. The Minister for Health (.Senator Fraser) now protests that the provision in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act on which this discussion has been based was not inserted in that legislation by a government which honorable senators on this side supported. My reply is that such action was not necessary because the principle of preference to returned soldiers was recognized in other acts. It must, also be remembered that the Opposition had to force the Government to insert the provision in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Senator Spicer was quite right when he charged the Government with flouting the law in this matter. The Government’s failure to enforce this law is an act of lawlessness that may have shocking results. Indeed, it has already produced shocking results because whilst the Government says that, it will ignore the law the coal-miners say, “ Well, we will ignore the law also ‘’. The Government should set an example to the community by enforcing the laws of the land. If it does not like this law and wants Parliament to repeal it, or any part of it, it has the power to take action in that direction. But it has not done so. It merely says that it will bring in a bill to protect service personnel, and with that promise it persuades honorable senators opposite to speak in this debate against the principle of preference to returned men. I want to know whether private members or Ministers reflect the opinion of the Government. The Minister for Health said that Senator Brand and Senator Collett acted quite rightly in bringing this matter forward because the soldiers looked to those senators to protect their interests. Although the soldiers look to those honorable senators for help, they look to the Government primarily to protect their interests; and they now look to it to protect their interests by enforcing this law.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– History repeats itself in a curious way. The complaint which we on this side make is that the Government does not approach the business of preference to soldiers in the proper way. In May, 1930, very much the same thing happened. The adjournment of the Senate was moved as a protest against the action of the Scullin Government in altering preference to returned soldiers to preference to unionists in government contracts.
– Then it is an old policy of theirs?
-Yes, that is the peculiar way in which actions are repeated. The late Senator Barnes, then Minister for Works, proposed to amend the preference clause in government contracts, which was as follows: -
In carrying out works under this contract preference shall bo given, other things being equal, first to returned sailors and soldiers with satisfactory records of service, and, secondly, to members of trade unions, by substituting the words “ to unionists “ for the words -
Other things being equal, first to returned sailors and soldiers with satisfactory records of service, and, secondly, to members of trade unions.
Thus that Government would have deleted all reference to preference to returned soldiers. What happened in this chamber then is occurring again, and for the same reason.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative, there being at least thirteen senators voting in favour of the motion.
Motion (by Senator Brand) put -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 9 a.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Employment of Demobilized Service Personnel
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
Will the Government issue an instruction to heads of war-time departments not subject to the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, making it mandatory, when a vacancy occurs, to notify the employment officer of the man-power directorate who has a register of all demobilized service personnel requiring employment?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Australian Soldiers’Repatriation Act provides that preference in employment shall b e given to ex-members of the forces, subject to competency for the work to be performed. The Public Service Board and the man-power directorate have an arrangement whereby the board’s recruiting representative in the respective States is kept supplied with particulars of ex-members of the forces desirous of, and regarded as suitable for, employment in the Public Service. Consideration will be given to the application of a similar arrangement to operate in connexion with Commonwealth activities not subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer states that inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer states that inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer states that inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Burial of Soldiers - Use of Military Initials
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Debate resumed from the 16th Febru ary (vide page 224) on motion by Senator Fraser -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I am sure that all honorable senators who have had an opportunity to study this measure closely will agree that it is one of the most remarkable pieces of legislation that has been brought before the Senate. I propose first of all to direct the attention of honorable senators to clause 26 because it would appear that to initiate this big scheme, practically everything of importance will have to be done by regulation. Clause 26 reads -
The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this act prescrib ing all matters which are by this act required or permitted to be prescribed or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this act, and in particular for -
prescribing the terms and conditions subject to which pharmaceutical benefits shall be supplied;
prescribing the terms and conditions subject to which payment in respect of the supply of pharmaceutical benefits will be made and the method of making such payments ; (c)prescribing the standards of composition or purity of pharmaceutical benefits subject to which payment in respect of the ‘supply thereof will be made;
prescribing the functions and regulating the conduct of any council or committee appointed under this act and for prescribing the fees and allowances to be paid to members thereof; and
prescribing penalties not exceeding Fifty pounds or imprisonment for three months for offences against the regulations.
The public of Australia is becoming tired of clothing this bureaucracy with such wide powers, and having control centralized in Canberra. A close examination of this bill enables one to appreciate the views expressed by the late Lord Hewart in his book The New Despotism. Bureaucratic control is becoming one of the greatest menaces . that the people of this country have to face. This bill will not do very much to improve the health of the people of this country. There are many other ways in which that could be done more effectively. We realize, of course, that the promises made by Government supporters during the last elections have to be fulfilled, and that the fulfilment of those promises has become a real problem to honorable senators opposite. This is merely another instalment of the dole - something for nothing. It is political propaganda designed to make the Government popular, without any regard whatever for the manner in which the scheme is to be financed, or what its cost will be. We have already passed a measure which in my opinion will do considerable harm to the friendly societies of Australia. I am quite satisfied that this legislation is the thin end of the nationalization wedge. The time is not far distant when the pharmaceutical chemists of this country will be put out of business, because, realizing that Labour forces will shortly have a majority in both Houses of this Parliament, the executive of the Australian Labour party has decreed that the principle of socialization of industry must be implemented. This measure is a step in that direction.
My second objection to this measure is that the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) who has been negotiating with the medical profession of Australia - men who know something about the technical side of this problem - has not been able to convince members of that profession that this scheme is sound. As a matter of fact, from the correspondence that has passed between representatives of the British Medical Association and the Minister, it is quite evident that the Labour party, acting upon a caucus instruction, is prepared to use its strength in this Parliament to push this measure through, whether it be right or wrong. The Government has been very discourteous to the medical profession and to the chemists of this country. Apparently members of the Government who have had no experience of this highly technical problem, are prepared to push on with the scheme, although they have been strongly advised to act with caution. I propose to deal rather fully with the points that have been made by the British Medical Association and others who have made a special study of this bill, in the correspondence that they have placed before the Minister. The attitude of the medical profession to the Government scheme is set out clearly in the following statement which was submitted by representatives of the profession to the Minister for Social Services at an informal conference held in Canberra on the 8th December, 1943 -
Wc, the representatives of the medical profession, recognize fully that the restoration to health and the alleviation of suffering should lie our paramount considerations.
Holding this opinion we consider that it is essential that in the acceptance of responsibility for the treatment of the sick the medical profession must be entirely untrammelled in regard to the therapeutic measures to be adopted.
For this reason we feel that the welfare of the sick would be seriously jeopardized by the adoption of any scheme which would limit the freedom of a doctor in prescribing for each of his patients exactly what medicine he regards as most suitable to restore him to health.
I can quite imagine the Minister for Social Services, with his wide experience as a union organizer and so on, pitting his views against those of men who have given their lives to the study of this technical problem. When that statement was made to the Government, the free medicine scheme had not been considered generally bv the medical profession, because, although details had been made available to pharmacists’ organizations, no information whatever hnd been furnished to the British Medical Association. Since then, however, the medical profession has considered the details of the Government’s scheme and at a meeting of the federal council of the profession held in Melbourne on the 31st January last, the statement submitted by the profession’s representatives - and which I have just quoted - was approved unanimously. Subsequent to that meeting, the following letter was sent to the Minister for Social Services and as, in my opinion, that communication sets out clearly and unambiguously the attitude of medical men towards this bill, I make no apology for quoting it in full : -
In further reference to conferences between your good self and representatives of the profession regarding the proposed scheme of the Commonwealth Government for pharmacy benefits, I have now to advise you that the federal council, at its meeting in Melbourne on the 31st January last, unanimously approved of the statement which was submitted to you at the conference in Canberra on the Sth December, 1943.
In the view of the federal council the acceptance of the principle enunciated in this statement, copy of which is attached, namely, that the medical profession must be entirely untrammelled in regard to the therapeuticmeasures to be adopted in the treatment of the sick, is an essential condition of an agreement to the use of any formulary in a pharmacy, benefits scheme.
In effect, this means that the federal council will be willing to recommend to the members of the British Medical Association in Australia the fullest .co-operation in the use of an official formulary provided that where a drug is ordered which is not within the formulary the patient shall be supplied with such drug without cost nevertheless. It is the view of the council that any restriction on drugs supplied without cost to the patient will necessarily indirectly mean restrictions on prescribing by the medical practitioner. So far as the formulary is concerned the council believes that by far the greater proportion of the prescriptions ordered will be from among those” contained within the formulary.
With regard to the administration of a pharmacy benefits scheme I am to advise you that the council regards it as essential, holding the view that such a scheme is part of a complete medical service, that the practising medical profession should be adequately represented on the controlling body, which should be of a statutory nature.
I am further to respectfully advise you thai the council is firmly of the opinion that the proposed pharmacy benefits scheme will not materially improve the health of the community and that it considers that the large expenditure involved in the project could bc much better devoted to other measures, such as hospital construction and equipment, care and treatment of sufferers from tuberculosis maternal and child welfare, and diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Ihope that the Senate will pay particular attention to that important letter, because whatever criticism may be levelled by unintelligent people against the medical profession of thiscountry, I am convinced from my reading and my study of that profession, that it stands as high in Australia as in any other country. Every honorable senator has had his own experience of the medical profession, and I regret that the Government, and the Minister, have not taken medical men more into their confidence in formulating an important scheme such as this. According to a report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald recently, a British Medical Association official said -
The position in regard to hospital accommodation is very serious. Fromone end of Australia to the other doctors are complaining of the difficulty in getting their patients admitted to hospital.
– Is that something new?
– No, but it is something to which our attention should be directed. It would be much better if we spent money in that direction than in this method of appeasing the Government’s political supporters. The report continues -
The factual sub-committee of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Social Security in its report points out that not only is there a serious shortage in hospital accommodation - 6,690 beds short in general hospitals, 2,963 short in hospitals for care of tuberculosis, and 6,994 short in hospitals for mental patients - but many of the existing buildings are antiquated and the equipment of low standard.
The shortage of beds for general purposes is due mainly to the fact that not sufficient accommodation is provided for sub-acute and chronic cases.
The position in regard to accommodation for patients suffering from tuberculosis is tragic.Recommendations regarding the care of these unfortunate people have been made from time to time to governments by medical and other bodies, but very little has ever been done. The money to be spent on bottles of medicine could with much greater benefit to the community be spent’ on improving the lot of the tuberculosis person and the eradicating of a disease, the incidence of which is still fartoohigh in this landof sunshine.
Improvement in hospital equipment is urgently needed especially for diagnostic purposes - more particularly in the country.
The National Health and Medical. Research Council in the report of its 11th session stated inter alia -
That the growing child is, in our present need, the national asset most worth preserving. This clearly implies that maternal care, child welfare, nutrition, physical education, industrial hygiene should all receive government recognition as administrative responsibilities of the first order of importance.
This Council has previously directed the attention of governments in Australia to serious neglect in adequate supervision of the bodily development of children before and during the school age.
Medical practitioners, in their evidence before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Social Security, have also stressed the importance of maternal and child welfare in any health service. Yet apparently the introduction ofa “ bottle of medicine “ service is to take precedence over the improvement in the care and welfare of mothers and children.
True, something has been done to improve the welfare of the mother and child. But how much more can be done! - Better housing, home helps, more day nurseries, crèches and kindergartens, more playgrounds, greater employment of trained social workers, &c. In effect, what the profession asks for is move attention to positive health.
If the CommonwealthGovernment is sincere in its desire to improve the health of the community there are many better ways of spending the taxpayers’ money than oil the provision of a bottle of medicine, which after all is only the tail end of a medical service.
I hope that the Minister will endeavour to give to the Senate an idea of the cost of the scheme for which the bill provides. No estimate has yet been made, apparently, as to whether it will cost £3,000,000 or £13,000,000. Regarding every other measure of this kind an effort has been made to form an estimate of the cost, but the Senate is now asked to sign a blank cheque and accept a clause which practically gives complete power to the Executive to say what the details of the scheme shall be. The Senate could considerably improve on that. On general principles the Government would be well advised to postpone consideration of this measure until it has had an opportunity to formulate a comprehensive scheme of national insurance which would cover old-age, unemployment, medical benefits and so on.
– Would the honorable senator then support it?
– Yes, particularly if it were established on a contributory basis; but I am not prepared to start at the tail-end of a scheme designed to create political popularity for the Government. That is not the best way to improve the health of the community.
.- This bill must be disappointing to all who have interested themselves in the subject of public health. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that the measure begins at the tail-end of a health scheme. No provision is made in the bill for assistance to be given at the time when the people usually meet with real difficulties. That is when they have to pay medical fees. Unless a person called in a medical practitioner and had a prescription prepared by him, he could not secure free medicine under the scheme. Furthermore, a second bottle of medicine could not be obtained by the patient unless the medical practitioner had ordered it. To obtain a second bottle of medicine a further medical fee would have to be paid. The scheme envisaged by this bill would not solve any of the real difficulties with regard to national health.
– Does the honorable senator favour free medical attention ?
– I do not think anybody expects that, but many regard the medical fees as too high. If the Government wishes to assist the people with a subsidy, it should help them to meet the cost of medical attention.
– Would the honorable senator support that?
– If a reasonable and equitable scheme were adopted that would reduce the cost of ‘medical attention and enable the people to obtain medical advice more readily than at present, I would support it; but the present scheme will not encourage the people to call on medical practitioners at an early stage of their sickness. I should prefer the Government to grant a subsidy that would encourage people to seek early medical advice rather than to require them to pay the whole of the medical fees at the outset when all that they would get under this bill would be a bottle of medicine without cost. Prior to the advent to office of the present Government, the National Health and Medical Research Council was estab lished under the chairmanship of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health, Dr. Cumpston. The council meets frequently in different States, but I do not know that any recommendation has been made by that body in favour of granting a free bottle of medicine to people after they have paid their medical fee. As the Leader of the Opposition has remarked, the British Medical Association has not had an opportunity to negotiate with the Government with a view to the formulation of a sounder scheme than that now proposed. The Government apparently has adopted this scheme without regard to its implications. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the effect that legislation of this kind is having on the friendly societies. Only to-day I received a letter from the grand secretary of the Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society, in which he forwarded to me a copy of a letter sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in connexion with a statement made in the Senate on the 17th February by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron). This letter, which was sent to the Prime Minister on the 22nd February, states -
By direction of the Grand Executive of the H.A.C.B. Society, Southern Queensland District, No. 5, I have to draw your attention to the statement made in the Federal Parliament by Senator Cameron, Minister for Aircraft Production, which appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of the 17th instant, where it was stated, inter alia - “that ‘he was sick of the talk of thrift from those who could not think for themselves. “ Friendly societies had never given benefits equal to the contribution they received, and the Federal Government proposed to set up machinery which would help unemployed persons more justly and efficiently.”
In the opinion of my Executive this statement is very damaging to all Friendly Societies and they have directed that I record their protest against it to you and to all Federal members and senators for this State, particularly as the statement is, to say the least, misleading and calculated to create in the minds of members of Friendly Societies and the public generally an impression that the funds of Friendly Societies are not efficiently and legitimately administered and expended. Any such opinion held in regard to our Society is strenuously refuted and is a definite misconstruction of the actual position. lt should be noted and the Minister should be aware of the fact that in this State at least, all funds are subject to half-yearly audit and also to the supervision of - the Registrar of Friendly Societies to whom returns of receipts aud expenditure are submitted annually.
Attached is a statement of receipts from members for contributions and the expenditure on benefits, medical and other services, for years 1930 to 1942, which discloses that an amount, of £00,709 in excess of contributions received was expended on members, the difference being met out of interest on the investment of accumulated funds.
This information is compiled for the Annual Reports submitted to the State Parliament each year foy the Registrar of Friendly Societies.
In fairness to our Grand Executive, who are administering the funds of this Society, either a published withdrawal of his statements should be made by the Minister or a public statement made by you as Leader of the Government that the statement complained of is incorrect so that the damage caused by it may be to some extent mitigated.
My Grand Executive would appreciate your taking suitable action in the matter.
Casey, Grand Secretary.
With the consent of honorable senators, I shall incorporate in Hansard a statement showing the amounts received by the society from its members as contributions between 1930 and 1942, and also the amounts expended in each of those years on benefits and services. The statement is as follow: -
Those figures prove that the friendly societies of this country are doing an extraordinarily good job, and are justified in resenting strongly the statement of the Minister for Aircraft Production.
The Commonwealth Department of Health is in the charge of a capable DirectorGeneral, who has under him a staff of competent officers. Moreover, the Social Security Committee has investigated various ways to improve the health of the community. There is also the National Health and Medical Research Council, which is composed of leading medical men and other citizens, who give much time and attention to improving the health of the community. There are indications that we are at last turning our attention to fundamental matters in connexion with health by starting with the health of children. I regard this measure as only a little more bait to induce the electors to support the Government’s referendum proposals. The attempt is not worthy of the Government, or of its Department of Health. The bill will not grant relief to individual families, and I ask the Government to withdraw it and introduce a measure which will be of real value to the community.
– I listened with interest to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Foll, who were at some pains to excuse themselves for their inaction in regard to health matters, when members of a former government, and in opposing the action of the present Government in trying to do something in the interests of the health of the community. Their speeches reminded me of the old saying that, “ The path to hell is paved with good intentions “. Honorable senators opposite seem to have been full of good intentions, which, however, have never been translated into action. Yet. immediately the present Government sets out to’ do something which represents a forward step in public health, they raise all sorts of objections. In this connexion, I remind honorable senators that practical experience is the world’s most competent teacher. Experience gained during this war has proved beyond all doubt that the policy of the Government will benefit all persons who are sufficiently intelligent to accept those benefits. When war broke out, it was found that many thousands of men had practically to be reconditioned physically before they could be of value as fighters. We had to provide them with free medical attention, free dental attention, and free medicine, in an effort to improve their health. Their condition was, in many instances, due to the neglect of previous governments, which had not taken time by the forelock and ensured a higher standard of public health. Honorable senators opposite, and the interests which they represent, were more concerned with increasing their bank balances than with improving the health of the people. The bill before us is a modest attempt on the part of the present Government to improve the health of the community, yet it is objected to by honorable senators opposite. I trust that the Government will succeed in doing much more than is provided for in this bill.
Senator Poll read a letter which hadbeen sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) by the grand secretary of the Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society, Southern Queensland District, in which exception is taken to some remarks which were attributed to me by the Brisbane Courier-Mail. Besides containing some contradictions, the letter bears out my contention that friendly societies had never given benefits equal to the contributions they have received. That is clear from the following paragraph
Attached is a statement of receipts from members for contributions and the expenditure on benefits, medical and other services, for years 1930 to 1942, which discloses that an amount of £66,799 in excess of contributions received wa9 expended on members, the difference being met out of interest on the investment of accumulated funds.
How can any society have accumulated funds if its benefits have equalled the contributions received ? As a member of a friendly society for over 40 years, I admit that the friendly societies of Australia have done good work. No one denies that. But they have their limitations. Out of their accumulated funds some of these societies have acquired valuable city properties, which they let at high rentals, thereby building up their funds. But the fact remains that, in the totality of their operations, they do not pay out benefits equal to the contributions received by them. It may be, as
Mr. Casey suggests, that at certain times friendly societies have paid out in benefits amounts in excess of contributions, but such excess payments are made from accumulated contributions. We give friendly societies ‘ credit for being possessed of the best intentions; but they are not able to deal with services of this kind as justly and as efficiently as is the Government. Whereas the operations o£ friendly societies, are limited to 700,000 members, the Government proposes to provide these services for the whole ot the community. On Mr. Casey’s own statement, what I said is correct.. Therefore, there is no substance in his criticism.. I do not want it to be thought for one’ moment that I am casting aspersions upon friendly societies, or that I am trying to discredit them in any way whatever. I admire the work that they have done against great opposition.. At one time their work was regarded as an encroachment upon the preserve of chemists. I also recall the fight which friendly societies waged against the British Medical Association, many of whose members were ,more concerned about making profits than they were about looking after the health of the community. The difference in the outlook of members of the British Medical Association and that of the Government is that the Government does not want to make any profit out of looking after the health of the community. It wants to keep the community healthy in order to serve the best interests of the nation, beca.use, as I have said on previous occasions, experience proves beyond all doubt that the greatest asset of any nation is a. virile and well-cared for community. We do not want our people to experience again conditions under which hundreds of thousands were denied medical attention, and medicine. And why did such conditions arise? Because the policy supported by honorable senators opposite reduced, those people to such a condition that they were obliged to work for the dole. That policy is based upon the principle of production for profit rather than production for use. That is the reason why those objectionable conditions arose in this country. In Great Britain, for example, as I have explained on previous occasions, the Duke of Windsor, when he was King of England, severely criticized the appalling conditions under which hundreds of thousands of people were living in the “Mack” areas of England. That was before the war ; and the government of the day appointed a committee of medical experts to inquire into those conditions. That committee reported that young women and young men were dying on the average at the age of eighteen years and nineteen years respectively, as the result of the numerous diseases, including tuberculosis, arising from malnutrition. When the war broke out the British Government was forced to reverse its policy in this matter. To-day, it is .giving effect to the very policy which has been opposed this evening by honorable senators opposite ; that is, the policy of providing free medicine and free medical attention for the masses of the people. The British Government merely made a virtue of necessity. When the war broke out man-power was indispensable. It had to be found for production and for the fighting line; and it was clear that man-power could not produce the desired results, unless it were properly cared for. To-day, hundreds of thousands of men and women who previously were forced to live under starvation conditions, dictated by a policy which honorable senators opposite still support, are now being better fed, clothed and housed than ever before. Thus, this Government, in submitting a measure of this kind, is giving effect to lessons which have been learned here and in other countries. Why were many thousands of people both here and in Great Britain forced to starve? It was because British capital which should have been used to establish, or develop, industries in Great Britain, to provide men and women with the opportunity to live under reasonably decent conditions, was invested in armament firms in Germany, Japan, and Italy; and Australian capital which should have been used to develop our secondary industries and to provide work for all who were willing and able to work, and to provide them with the care to which they were entitled, was invested in Malaya, Japan and other countries. If the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Great Britain do this job thoroughly, there will not .be a repetition after this war of the state of affairs that existed after the last war. This measure is a step in the right direction. We propose to give free medicine to the people, and I trust that before long we shall be able to go a step further and provide free medical attention. When I use the word “ free “ I do not suggest that the recipients of benefits under measures of this kind will be getting something for nothing. All the money that will be used to provide these benefits will come from funds which have been accumulated in the form of exorbitant profits, rents, and interest, portion of which, together with portion of the incomes of wage-earners, will be taxed into Consolidated Revenue. These benefits will be financed from Consolidated Revenue. Therefore, recipients of benefits under this measure will actually be receiving only a portion of what they contribute both directly and indirectly to Consolidated Revenue. Therefore, we are not giving anything for nothing when we provide free medicine. All we say is that we are going to maintain the health of the community at a higher standard than has yet been achieved. I am perfectly certain that if the appeal which will be made, as it can be made, to the average medical practitioner and the average chemist, is responded to, the success of the scheme will be assured. When the average medical practitioner, the chemist, and the average member of friendly societies, envisage this scheme in its true perspective, realizing the benefits that can accrue from it, they will offer very little opposition to it. The main opposition to the scheme to-day emanates from those whose minds are still back in the medieval ages - persons who have little or no knowledge of the potentialities of this country or its people, and who are much more concerned about profit-making than they are about anything else. With them profit is the primary consideration. If they cannot see in any proposition an opportunity to increase profits, they condemn it. We must expect opposition of that kind. Fortunately, it comes from a minority. However, every reform which has been proposed from the days of Adam up to the present, and which has had for its objective the improvement of the conditions under _ which the people live, or the raising of the cultural level of the community, or to enable the community to live under happier conditions, has always been opposed. I recall that when the sewerage scheme for Melbourne was being planned I advocated that bathrooms should be installed in every worker’s home, and my advocacy met with this response: “What would they want a bath for ? Consider the expense “ ! We had opposition then, just as we have it to-day from vested interests; but, to-day, a bath is a commonplace installation in the average home. I think that I have said sufficient to give honorable senators opposite food for thought; and I trust that they will try to rise above petty political prejudices, their orthodox ideas and their desire to make political capital out of any proposal advanced by the Government. The bill should be studied on its merits. I urge honorable senators opposite to recall the conditions which previously existed in Australia, and which more or less obliged us to recondition many of our soldiers physically before we sent them to the fighting front. They should give some thought to the idea that it is always possible to keep the community’s health at a high level without in any way reducing the status, or the living standards, of members of the medical profession or chemists. I believe that opposition to this measure from that quarter is based entirely upon the false assumption that free medicine or free medical attention will have the effect of reducing them to the level of wage-earners. I can quite understand that a doctor who has studied hard in his profession and a chemist would stand solidly together against any move that threatens to reduce them to the level of underpaid wage-earners. I could understand their demanding the maintenance of their status and individuality, and the retention of all the things they hold dear. That can all be done. The bill does not mean forcing them out of business or down to the level of wageearners, as an intelligent study of it should convince them. Even if it does not so convince them, the Government intends to proceed with the bill.
– We have just listened to a characteristic speech from the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron). This is not the first time that he has delivered it. Whilst it might be worthy of him as a private member, it is hardly one that would be expected from a Minister of the Crown. It consisted of a stream of abuse of honorable senators on this side. While saying nothing about the merits of the bill, he abused us for opposing reform and accused us of refusing to recognize the needs of the poorer sections of the community. He has said these things so often that he begins to believe them himself, but he knows in his heart that they are not in accordance with facts. As I pointed out recently in the debate on another bill, there are on the statute-book numerous acts as evidence of what the party represented by those on this side have done, in both Commonwealth and State spheres, for the needy and sick. A speech such as that just made by the Minister is a travesty of our history. The Minister cannot say truthfully that the people of the Commonwealth, to -whichever side of politics they belong, have lagged behind those of any other country in passing legislation beneficial to the people. Australia will stand any fair comparison with other parts of the world as regards assisting those in need of help. Our general hospitals compare most favorably with those of any other country. None of them will turn away an applicant for admission because he cannot pay hospital fees. He may be asked what his circumstances are, and how much he will be able to pay, but he will not be refused admission, whatever his financial position may be. The Minister cannot say that the best medical attention is not made available in our public institutions all over Australia to rich and poor alike. Our benevolent institutions have done a tremendous amount of good in caring for the sick and needy. The women of this country devote their time to helping them, the orphans, and young children. A great deal of good is done by the Australian Red Cross Society and other organizations all over the Commonwealth, yet the Minister would lead us to believe that the Australian people were callous and unmindful of those less fortunate than themselves. The Minister’s statements are simply not true. He does not present the case fairly, and he certainly does not speak for this country. 1 direct attention also to the great work done by the friendly societies, whose members have banded, themselves together to assist one another in times of need. No better example of the brotherhood of man could be found. They have built up, for three-quarters of a century, funds which are properly audited, yet the Minister would cast them aside. He tries to lead the public to believe that, by means of this bill, they will obtain benefits which are not obtainable from the friendly societies. Members of friendly societies receive medical attention, medicine, sick pay and funeral benefits. Such societies have branches all over the Commonwealth, they are well established, their funds are well invested, and they are and always have been in a position to meet their obligations to their members.
There is one direction in which the Government could help. There is a great body of working people who are not medically fit, and cannot pass the examination standard set by the societies. There is an important field in which the Government, or the State governments, could do a tremendous amount of good. They could subsidize the societies so that people who are below the standard, and whose premiums would be loaded by life assurance societies, may share in the benefits. Honorable senators opposite know that a great deal has been done, although the Minister says that nothing has been done.
– I did not say that. I said that the societies had done all they could, but that it was not enough.
– If language means anything, the honorable senator attributed to honorable senators on this side a complete lack of sympathy with the poorer sections of the people. He said that many men were rejected for military service ‘because, during all the years that we were in office, we were unmindful of, and neglected the health of, the people.
– I did not say that. I said that many men had to be medically treated and physically reconditioned.
– The great captains of industry have not been unmindful of their employees. They have not devoted their lives entirely to making money. The great business organizations of Australia have put aside large sums of money from their profits to promote social welfare. The newsprint manufacturing company of Tasmania has established welfare rooms, provided doctors and nurses, and paid money cheerfully into a fund to help their employees in times of sickness and accident. Why did not the honorable senator mention those things? Not only did he try to mislead the Senate, which fortunately does not believe him, but he also sought to make the public believe that only now, when this Government is in office, are these things being considered, although, in point of fact, we on this side have been putting them into effect for many years. The legislation that has been passed is the best evidence of our bona’ fides. I hope, therefore, that we shall hear no more of such speeches from this irresponsible Minister. I am sure that he does not speak for his colleagues in the Ministry. They do not say these things, because they do not think them. It is not true that the only thought of the directors of our great industrial concerns is profit. They are actually working in close co-operation with their operatives for their benefit. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which has always been a target for the abuse of some honorable senators opposite, has established valuable welfare schemes, and subsidized funds for the benefit of its operatives. There is no industrial organization of any magnitude in this country which has not set aside, and is still setting aside, sums of money for recreation halls, social welfare work and all those things which the
Minister has said are not being done. That has been done for years.
– For bow many years?
– I should say for 20 or 30 years at least. I could instance such firms as Cadbury, Fry, Pascall Proprietary Limited, MacRobertson’s, Bryant and May Proprietary Limited, Lever Brothers Proprietary Limited and many others. We have feelings as humane as those of honorable senators opposite. It would be very much better if the Minister paid a tribute to what we have done. We could then agree with him that very much more remains to be done.
– Does the honorable senator believe in free medicine?
– Can the Minister point to a case where medical attention and medicine has been made contingent on the patient’s answer to the question of whether he was in a position to pay for it or not? Does he say that needy people who go into hospitals do not get free medical attention and medicine? Of course they do, and the Minister for Aircraft Production knows it. He would lead the Senate to believe that the provision of medical attention and medicine was contingent upon the patient being in a position to pay for them, but that is not the position at all. In any case, this bill will not provide free medicine, because before a patient can receive medicine, he must have a doctor’s prescription, which will cost him probably half a guinea. Even then, the medicine that is prescribed may not come within the schedule of free medicines,, and so the patient will have to pay for it in any case. There is also the possibility of abuses. A doctor may diagnose a complaint and prescribe only a single bottle of medicine, instructing the patient to return at a later date for a further prescription. That second prescription, which may well be a repetition of the first or a slight variation of it, will cost the patient another half-guinea If the Government were really anxious about the welfare of the people, it could embark upon a field of activity which is given only brief mention in this mea sure. I refer to the scourge of tuberculosis, which is so prevalent in this country and in other countries. It is a dreadful disease, but only scant provision is made for the treatment and accommodation of sufferers. Surely that is a field in which the Commonwealth Government could go to the assistance of the States by building hospitals, instead of pottering around with a scheme such as this, which, by comparison, is comparatively meaningless. Action to aid tubercular sufferers would be greatly appreciated in this country ; so let us take first things first, and deal now with our most pressing health problems. Another field which offers scope for considerable activity by the Commonwealth Government is the care of children. Of course, we already have maternity allowances, child endowment, and free baby clinics’, but beyond that stage no provision is made for adequate care of children. Ls there a better cause to which medical science could be devoted? Then there is another dreadful scourge, cancer. Like sufferers from tuberculosis, cancer patients are not wanted in our general hospitals. Many cases are incurable, and there is no room for them. If the Government really wishes to take an interest in the health of the community, let it start by providing for the care of these people by building institutions for them. Surely that is a responsibility of the nation.
This bill makes’ obvious what we on this side have suspected for some time, namely, the desire on the part of the Government to govern by regulations. There is not very much in this measure, but under it there is a great deal that can be done by regulation. There is a disposition on the part of many governments to-day to govern by regulation wherever possible, and in that respect one is reminded of The New Despotism by a former Lord Chief Justice of England. A democratic parliament is not entitled to pass legislation which leaves the Governor-General in Council to decide what shall or shall not be done. I do not altogether blame honorable senators opposite. Government by regulation is an easy method of administration, which enables a government to overcome many difficulties for which no special’ provision has been made in legislation; birt I am afraid that when .this measure becomes operative many people who are expecting much of it will be sadly disappointed. No doubt the passing of this legislation will influence some sections of the community in favour of the Government - I am not imputing improper motives to the Government - but T would far rather see action taken to deal with the unfortunate sufferers in the community whom I have already mentioned.
, - When introducing this measure, the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) quoted Disraeli who in 1875 said, “ The first duty of statesmen is the care of public health “. I have listened most attentively to the speeches that have been made by honorable senators opposite to-night in an endeavour to ascertain their idea of the duty of a statesman in the direction of caring for public health. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) had little to say in connexion with this measure, but he remarked that it was one of the most remarkable pieces of legislation that had been placed before this Senate. He did not say why he thought so, but I agree that it is a remarkable bill, because it strikes right at the heart of the health economy of Australia as we know it to-day. Probably legislation of this character tas never been even conceived by honorable senators opposite, or if it has been conceived by them, they have remained silent in regard to its application. All that the Leader of the Opposition was able to do was to repeat the propaganda which is being fed to the public every day of the week and every week of the year. The honorable senator said that the public of Australia had become tired of such wide bureaucratic powers being exercised at Canberra. The people of Australia, are not worried about the Opposition’s professed fear of bureaucracy and centralization. During a state of war there must inevitably be bureaucratic and central control, manipulated in accord ance with socialist ideals. The prosecution of the war would not have been so successful as it is to-day without the exercise of that control. All the talk of the dangers supposed to be inherent in the work of a Labour government is merely political propaganda. The Leader of the Opposition said the bill would not do much to improve the health of the people. I do not know whether the taking of medicine prescribed by medical men greatly improves the health of the people, but medical practitioners have become highly skilled as a result of years of experience, and many thousands of people have implicit faith in their doctors and in the prescriptions supplied by them. Even at the present time the breadwinners of families, and particularly the mothers of families, deliberately risk their health because they are unable to pay medical fees and purchase the medicines which the doctors assert are essential for the maintenance of good health. I agree that we should endeavour to adopt preventive measures in order to safeguard the health of the people, but in submitting this bill to the Parliament the Government is placing before it another instalment of the social security legislation for which it received a mandate at the last general elections.
Reference has been made to national fitness organizations and other bodies established for the maintenance of the health of the community. One of the greatest contributing factors to improved public health is the work of the infant welfare centres at which pre-natal and post-natal attention is given to mothers and children. The Government of Western Australia realizes the value of the work of these clinics, and subsidizes them to the amount of £100 a year. As each clinic employs a trained nurse at an average remuneration of about £4 a week, it will be seen that the subsidy is inadequate, and that the work is carried on mainly by voluntary effort. These bodies are’ doing voluntary work for the purpose of _ bringing into the world a type of citizen who will have a chance of enjoying first-class health. This is only one of the phases of the health problem, which should be dealt with on ‘a national basis. The present measure shows the Government’s desire to implement a complete scheme for national health. The Minister in charge of the bill stated in the course of his second-reading speech that since the beginning of the present century the infant mortality rate in Australia had been reduced to about one-third of that prevailing in 1901. M;any members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives have said that one of Australia’s greatest needs is population, and that the best immigrant it can have is the native-born Australian. The Parliament should deal with the subject of hospital treatment throughout Australia. The British Medical Association should give its wholehearted support to the Labour Government in the introduction of a scheme that would be of real value to the people.
The bill provides for granting free medicine to every person ordinarily resident in this country. We are told by the Opposition that the medicine will not be free, because it cannot be obtained until a doctor’s certificate has been secured. I understand that the Minister may bring down an amendment that will largely overcome that criticism. I assume that before a person endeavours to obtain a bottle of medicine under the scheme he will consult a medical practitioner and accept his decision as to what medicine should be obtained. The granting of free medicine will induce thousands of citizens to seek medical advice whenever necessary, although they have probably neglected to do so in the past, much to the detriment of the health of themselves and their children. In ‘Great Britain the standard of physical fitness of recruits for the Army had to be reduced time after time because the general health of the people, as in Australia, was not equal to the requirements of war service. This was due to the fact that society had failed to realize its responsibility to the people. The low standard of health of the people of the British race has been largely brought about by what is termed the capitalist system. The history of that system makes it clear that profits are regarded as of paramount importance, and that in the pursuit of profits the welfare of the people who produce them is of little or no concern. In saying that, I am not unaware that some Australian firms are outstanding for the generous treatment of their employees. Nevertheless, it is true that many employers are not greatly concerned about the health of the men and women who work for them. Were it not that the law requires certain things to be done, such employers would make little provision for the comfort and health of their employees. The bill proposes that the payment of benefits shall be from funds accumulated by the imposition of taxes. I am astonished that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) made no reference whatsoever to that aspect of this legislation. Are we to envisage a repetition of what occurred in connexion with a bill which has recently been before the Senate, because this bill contains a clause similar to a vital provision of that measure? I assume that the Opposition will allow the clause to remain.
The bill also provides that the governing body of any public hospital, or the owner of a private hospital, may provide materials and appliances which are not pharmaceutical benefits. Such materials and appliances may prove of great value to many citizens. I have had some association with hospitals in .Western Australia, particularly the Perth Public Hospital, and I know that requests are continually being received to supply needy people with such articles as crutches, wooden, or other artificial limbs. At the moment, hospitals have, in a large measure, to depend on charity for such requisites, and therefore I am glad that this bill makes some provision in that direction.
Another feature of this measure is that the pharmaceutical benefits will be set out in a comprehensive formulary, which may be extended or enlarged from time to time by a formulary committee. The Leader of the Opposition read a letter from the British Medical Association, in which that body stated that it wanted to retain the right of medical practitioners to make up their own prescriptions, and to make a charge in certain circumstances. I understand that the number of formularies to be adopted will be so great that a doctor would have to be a wizard to prescribe something which was not contained in the formulary) and therefore the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition have not much weight. It should he remembered that the bill proposes to set up a consultative council, consisting of medical men, to. advise the Minister or the DirectorGeneral. In addition, there will be a formulary committee, consisting of six persons, who will revise, amend, or increase the number of formularies to which prescriptions must conform. The bill recognizes that medical science is advancing, and, accordingly, it envisages the consequent application of the latest ideas and practices in medical science.
During the discussion of this bill a good deal has been said about the friendly societies of Australia, and the fear has been expressed that the passing of this measure will be to their detriment. Rightly or wrongly, I take the opposite view. I do so for the reason that there are about 700,000 members of friendly societies throughout the Commonwealth. On the assumption that every male member has a wife and two children, that means that these societies cater for about 2,800,000 persons in the community. As honorable senators know, membership of a friendly society entitles a member’s wife, and children under a certain age, to obtain a prescription for medicine. It will be seen that there are already in Australia large numbers of citizens who will benefit under this legislation because they will not be required to pay the fee charged by medical practitioners for prescriptions entitling them to medicine. In addition, there are other societies with similar functions and ramifications, all of which will be protected. Much of the criticism levelled against the bill will not bear examination. I shall reserve any further remarks until the bill reaches the committee stage.
– In all parts of the world it is becoming more generally recognized that the health of the people is the responsibility of the Government. That belief, which has been gaining ground for many years, has been accelerated by war conditions during the last four years. There is a growing belief that future governments will have to bear more responsibility for the social security of the people under their control. The measures which the present Government will submit to this Parliament have been framed on that basis. Until the beginning of the present century it was commonly believed that public health related only to such matters as sanitation, the inspection of food and drugs, the distribution of pure water supplies, the regulation of buildings, the disposal of sewage and refuse, the regulation of marketing, the lighting of towns, the burial of the dead without injury to the living, and the control of infectious diseases and of the causes of infection. The utilization of government funds for these purposes was recognized, and, in addition, hospitals for destitute persons were also considered to have a claim on government funds. But in more recent years it has been increasingly recognized that a considerable number of factors affect public health, and that expenditure upon any one, or all, of them is justified on not only health but also economic grounds, and will’ undoubtedly save considerable cost in the future. It is also recognized that it is extravagance to go to great lengths and expense to cure sickness and disease, and, at the same time, allow patients to return to conditions similar to those under which they contracted their illness. That is an important point to remember, particularly when we are dealing with the expenditure of Government funds for the purpose of maintaining the health of the community. Many persons enter hospitals, but are obliged, owing to their economic circumstances, to leave the institution before they have had an opportunity to recover fully, with the result that the expenditure incurred in their treatment is wasted. In a country like Australia, with its huge area and comparatively small population, we must, if possible, keep our people 100 per cent, physically fit. In order to do that we must apply preventive as well as curative medicine, and, I suggest, that we should give first consideration to the preventive side of medicine. We should inculcate in our people a health consciousness, and teach them to take a pride in their health
Without education of that kind we cannot hope to obtain full benefit from steps we might . take in other directions to maintain a high standard of public health.
The object of this bill is to provide free medicine benefits. The first feature to attract my attention is the proposed method of administering these benefits. Yesterday, we passed a measure which provides unemployment, sickness and special benefits; and during the course of the debate on that measure the Minister for Social Services (Senator Eraser) intimated that the Government intends to combine all legislation of this kind in one consolidated measure. That measure will be administered by the Director-General of Social Services. Although this measure provides a different benefit, the method of distributing it is similar to that outlined in the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill. Therefore, I fail to understand why this measure is to be administered, not by the Director-General of Social Services, but by the Director-General of Health. After all, this measure deals chiefly with the distribution of a financial benefit, and, for that reason, I should imagine that it comes more within the purview of the Director-General of Social Services rather than that of the DirectorGeneral of Health. Further, by placing the administration of this measure in the hands of the Director-General of Social Services we would link it with the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill, and thus the Government could more readily assist in consolidating measures providing social service benefits. This bill empowers both the Minister and the Director-General of Health to delegate powers. If it is intended that powers to deal with certain aspects of this measure be delegated to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services, we are handling the matter in a very roundabout fashion.
This bill also provides for the settingup of a consultative council, consisting of six persons who will be appointed by the Minister. I should think that they will include representatives of the medical profession, the hospitals, the pharmacists, the Department of Health and the public A council of that kind would he able to advise the Director-General of Social Services with regard to the medical side of the administration of this measure. The proposal to appoint a formularies committee is wise. Such a committee need only consist of representatives of the hospitals, medical profession and the pharmacists, because it will deal solely with technical matters in regard to which a representative of the public could not very well make any worthwhile contribution. In view of these facts I should like the Minister to explain why the administration of this measure is to be the responsibility of the Director-General of Health and not that of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services.
The bill covers a very wide field. The Medical Survey Committee estimated that in 1942-43 a total of 20,000,000 prescriptions was made up in this country. Allowing a cost of 4s. for each prescription, the total cost of those prescriptions to the public would be £4,000,000. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
, - I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
On the 16th February, Senator Collett asked me as the Minister representing the Prime Minister the following questions, upon notice: -
The Prime Minister has furnished the following answers : -
Allowances and Conditions.
Rations and Quarters. - Accommodation and victuals are provided. Wherethey cannot bo provided from service sources, however, the following allowances are paid in lieu: -If member able to live at home, provision allowance 3s. per day; if member required to live away from home, lodging and provision allowance, 4s.6d. per day.
Clothing. - Free initial outfit is provided. Replacements are not made in kind but an allowance is paid in lieu at 8d. per day.
Leave. - The able seaman is eligible for leave on the basis of a minimum of fourteen days to a maximum of 42 days per annum (inclusive of Sundays and public holidays) on full pay. Home leave travel is provided at Commonwealth expenses. Leave allowed at 3s. per day is payable.
Medical Attention. - Free medical, dental and hospital treatment are provided for the member.
Note. - The daily rates of pay and allowance shown above are paid on the basis of a seven-day week.
Deferred Pay. - In addition to the above rates, a private soldier is credited with deferred pay of 2s.perday after six months’ service or from date of his embarkation for overseas service, whichever first occurs.
Rations and Quarters. - Rations and quarters are provided by the Army. If, however, rations and quarters cannot be provided by the Army a private soldier is paid a subsistence allowance as follows: - Member able to live at home, 3s. per day; member required to live away from home if not maintaining a dependant, 4s. 6d. per day; if maintaining a dependant, 5s. per day.
Clothing. - Uniform and necessary clothing are provided free.
Leave. - The private soldier is eligible foi leave with full pay on the basis of two days a calendar month (inclusive of Sundays and public holidays). In addition and where practicable one rest day a week may be granted. Subsistence allowance is paid at rate of 3s. per day. Home leave travel is provided at Commonwealth expense.
Medical Attention. - Free medical, dental and hospital treatment are provided for the member.
Note. - The daily rates of pay and allowances shown above are paid on the basis of a seven-day week.
Note. - Airmen are classified in groups according to trades
Deferred Pay. - In addition to the above rates, a leading aircraftman is credited with deferred pay to 2s. per day after six months’ service or from the date of embarkation for overseas service, whichever first occurs.
Rations and Quarters. - Rations and quarters are provided by the Air Force. If,- however, rations and quarters cannot be provided by the Air Force, an airman is paid a subsistence allowance as follows: - Member able to live at home, 3s. per day; member required to live away from home, if not maintaining a dependant, 4s. 6d. per day; if maintaining a dependant, 5s. per day.
Clothing - Uniform and necessary clothing are provided free.
Leave. - A leading aircraftman is eligible for leave with full pay on the basis of four days a quarter (inclusive of Sundays and public holidays ) . In addition, one day’s leave at week-ends and one long week-end a month are granted where practicable. An additional ten days’ leave on full pay is granted after twelve months’ service in tropical and certain other remote areas. Home leave travel is provided at Commonwealth expense. Subsistence allowance is paid at rate of 3s. per day.
Medical Attention. - Free medical, dental and hospital treatment is provided for the member.
Note. - The daily rates of pay and allowances shown above are paid on the basis of a seven-day week.
In addition to the pay, &c, received by members of the forces, as set out under (a), (6) and (c) above, they are also entitled to repatriation benefits. The Repatriation Act provides for the payment of war pensions to discharged members of the forces suffering from war-caused disabilities and to the widows and dependants of members whose deaths are due to war service. Provision is also made for medical treatment, employment and sustenance, vocational training and general assistance. Under the latter heading loans are made available for establishment in business, tools of trade are granted, furniture is provided to certain categories and assisted passages are made available to the wives and children of members who, during the war, have married abroad. Under the soldiers’ children education scheme the education of the children of deceased, of blinded and of permanently totally incapacitated ex-service personnel, is watched and guided from an early age.
Id) A WORKER IN THE CIVIL CONSTRUCTIONAL CORPS.
A labourer unclassified in the Civil Constructional Corps is paid a weekly wage of £5 10s. pursuant to the O’Mara award. This corresponds to £1 per day on the basis of 44 hours worked over five and a half days per week. For all overtime worked in excess of 44 hours per week, payment at the rate of time and a half for the first two hours and double time thereafter is made.
Members are entitled to nine public holidays, as set out in the award, without loss of pay.
Members required to live in a Civil Constructional Corps camp are provided with free food and quarters. If required to live away from home but not in a camp, an allowance of £1 12s. 6d. per week is paid.
The cost per man of services, such as medical services, compensation benefits, sick pay, &c., has been estimated at 2) per cent, of the direct wages paid.
A member is entitled to be returned to Ms place of engagement or enrolment on conclusion of his services with the Civil Constructional Corps, and upon discharge, except in the case when he is discharged for misconduct, where the discharge is at the request of the member, or the Director-General of Man-power or the Army, or where the member is at the instance of the Director-General forthwith, transferred to or placed in employment, he shall be paid an amount equal to one week’s wages.
Present monthly rate, together with keep, £20 11s. ; a day’s pay is taken as one-thirtieth. War risk bonus 33 per cent. extra, and after six months continuous service, 50 per cent. extra retrospectively. Additional 10 per cent. on the ordinary wage rate if ten tons or more explosives or fifteen tons of specified inflammable liquids carried.
Overtime - Minimum rate 3s. 3d. per hour with increased rate for specified conditions. War risk bonus is added to overtime at sea and at certain ports inside and outside the Commonwealth.
Constant service leave, 14 days per year with pro rata provisions. Weekly leave twelve hours time per week inside working hours. (Note working week is seven days). Public holidays paid for. Sick leave as per Navigation Act and award - full wages and medical expenses in “out” ports. “Home” port, full wages up to three months. Injury and accident as per sick leave or, alternatively, may elect to take benefits of Commonwealth Seamen’s Compensation Act.
In case of death or injury through enemy action, pensions are available to merchant seamen under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act 1940. Medical benefits are also provided under the National Security (Medical Benefits to Seamen) Regulations where war injury is sustained. The wages of seamen detained by the enemy continue under the provisions of the National Security (Wages of Seamen Detained by the Enemy) Regulations.
The minimum day wage earnings are £1 8s. 4d. Miners who work under the contract system vary between £2 and £2 10s. per shift. Maitland District miners receive1s. more on the day wage, and contract rates may be higher than previously mentioned. Miners are paid eight hours bank to bank which is calculated from the time the first employee enters the mine on the shift to the time that the last employee comes out of the mine at the conclusion of that shift. Working time includes 30 minutes’ crib time and travelling time in the mine.
Overtime - time and a half. Miners receive one day’s annual leave on full pay for every 25 shifts worked. For work on public holidays, miners are paid double time, but no payment is made if not worked.
In accordance with State provisions - Miners are entitled to pension of £2 per week, plus £1 5s. for wife and 8s. 6d. child allowance upon attaining the age of60 years or retiring from the industry earlier on account of certain disabilities.
Waterside workers are paid 3s. 8½d. per hour for time actually worked and, in addition, receive special rates for special cargoes. Such special rates are fixed by the Board of Reference under the award and generally speaking range from 3d. to.1s. 6d. per hour. No maximum rate is fixed, however, under the award and the fixation rests entirely with the board.
Overtime is paid for at the rate of time and a half up to midnight. From midnight to 7 a.m. and noon on Saturday to midnight on Saturday and midnight on Sunday to 7 a.m. on Monday at double time. Work on Sunday is paid for at double time and a half.
Waterside workers now work in shifts from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a night shift from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
By Stevedoring Industry Commission Order No. 21, rest periods are allowed as follows: - 10 a.m. to 10.15 a.m., 8 p.m. to 8.16 p.m., 3 a.m. to 3.15 a.m., 3 p.m. to 3.15 p.m., 10 p.m. to 10.15 p.m. (night shift only), 6 a.m. to 5.15 a.m. During week-ends, fifteen minutes extra are allowed for lunch and tea. Waterside workers do not receive paid holidays.
REMISSIONS OF TAXATION.
With regard to remissions of taxation the position in respect of individuals in each of the above classes is as follows: -
A worker in the Civil Constructional Corps, a miner on the coal-fields of New South Wales, and a waterside worker at the port of Sydney, are not entitled to any taxation remissions or concessions that are not made to or claimable by the general body of taxpayers.
A married man with a wife and two children under the age of sixteen who are wholly maintained by him is entitled to a concessional rebate of tax calculated by applying the undermentioned amounts to the rate of tax appropriate to a taxable income from personal exertion equal to the taxpayer’s taxable income: - Wife, £100 (this figure is subject to a variable increase where the taxpayer’s taxable income is between £200 and £300) ; eldest child, £75; each other child, £30.
In addition to the above concessional rebates of tax, an able seaman in the Royal Australian Navy, a private’ in the Australian Imperial Force and a leading aircraftman in the Royal Australian Air Force receive the following taxation concessions: -
An able seaman in the Australian Merchant Shipping Service who serves on a sea -going ship receives the special deduction of £250 received by members of the Defence Forces, subject, however, to the provision that the special deduction is not to exceed the amount of the income derived during the year of income from employment on a sea-going ship.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Williamtown, New South Wales.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Prohibiting work on land, and use of land.
Taking possession of land, &c. (53).
Use of land (2).
Senate adjourned at 10.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 February 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440224_senate_17_177/>.